January 22, 2021 | www.nihb.org
President Biden Signs Executive Orders, Releases Strategic Plan on COVID-19 Response
In his first days in office, President Joe Biden signed several Executive Orders (EOs) and released a National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Awareness. In some areas, the EOs bring opportunities for advocacy ensuring American Indian and Alaskan Native (AI/AN) voices are heard.
The EOs also bring opportunities for consultation with the federal government to improve testing, vaccination, and treatment for patients using the Indian health care system. The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) summarizes the EOs that impact Tribes and the Indian Health Service (IHS).

Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing (1/20/21) The Biden Administration is requiring the use of masks and social distancing measures by federal employees and contractors and in federal buildings (including buildings rented by the federal government), as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The EO applies to Indian Health Service (IHS) and Tribal 638 facilities. Tribal 638 facilities are included because of their status as federal government contractors.

Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (1/20/21) The Biden Administration is reviewing and identifying federal government policies that can be reformed to ensure equity for underserved populations. The EO presents an opportunity to advocate for full funding of IHS and addressing other administrative or legislative decisions that result in adverse outcomes for AI/AN people.

Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats (1/21/21) The Biden Administration is creating a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board which will be chaired by the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator). The Board will consist of executive agency and board representatives who are selected by the President and their work will focus on increasing the testing capacity.

Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery (1/21/21) The Biden Administration is establishing the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Task Force will consist of the HHS Secretary, other federal agency leaders selected by the Secretary, and up to 20 members from sectors outside of the federal government appointed by the President. The IHS Director is not currently on the task force. This is an opportunity for Tribes to advocate for a Tribal voice on the Task Force.

Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain (1/21/21) President Biden is directing the Secretaries of State, Defense, HHS, Homeland Security, and the heads of appropriate executive departments and agencies in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator to review the availability of critical materials, treatments, and supplies (including PPE) needed to produce and distribute tests and vaccines, whether or not any shortfalls could be filled by the private sector in a timely manner, and take appropriate action using all available legal authorities to fill these shortfalls as soon as possible. Within 180 days, the strategy must be produced to design, build, and sustain a long term capacity in the United States to manufacture supplies for future pandemics.

Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States (1/21/21) President Biden is authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make available, under Category B of the Public Assistance Act, to state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments financial assistance that may be required to safely reopen eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible applicants. The financial assistance may be used to purchase PPE and disinfecting services and supplies.

Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats (1/21/21) President Biden is directing the heads of various agencies to designate an official to work with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator to take steps to improve data collection and analysis in response to public health threats, such as COVID-19. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is also directed to work with the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to review the federal government’s existing approaches to open data and then work to figure out how to de-identify the data and make it available to the public as quickly as possible. The Secretary of HHS is also directed to work with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator to review the collection of morbidity and mortality data by state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and the effectiveness of the public data systems that support their collection.

Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19 (1/21/21) The Biden Administration has committed to promoting the development of COVID-19 treatments and improving access to existing treatments. The President has directed the Secretary of HHS and the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a plan to support a range of studies for the most promising treatments for COVID-19 that can be easily manufactured and distributed. They are also specifically directed to support research in rural hospitals and rural locations and consider steps to include populations that are historically underrepresented in trials. The HHS Secretary is also directed to identify barriers to the equitable use of existing treatments. 

The Biden Administration's Executive Orders and National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Awareness can be found on the White House website.
For questions, contact Chris Chavis at cchavis@nihb.org.
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