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President Biden has issued a COVID-19 response plan.

Biden issues coronavirus response plan including orders for national guidance on worker safety and restaurant operating regulations

Administration to invoke Defense Production Act to ramp up testing, and to hire at least 100,000 contact tracers

President Joe Biden issued a plan to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic and, among other things, provide clear guidelines for how and when restaurants and other businesses can operate. For businesses, the plan stresses prioritizing getting funds in the current $285 billion Paycheck Protection Program to businesses that need it most.

“The United States will immediately work to prioritize funds under the recent COVID relief package to the companies hardest hit by COVID-19 and in compliance with public health restrictions, ensuring that small businesses have the funds they need to operate safely,” according to the plan.

The full plan can be found here.

It said clear national guidelines would be developed regarding worker safety, and under what circumstances, and at what capacity, restaurants should be allowed to operate.

The administration has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, to provide updated guidance on workplace safety requirements during the pandemic. It also has directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to provide guidance on what conditions must be met for restaurants, bars and other businesses to operate.

“Social distancing is not a light switch. It is a dial,” according to a summary of the plan issued by the White House. “President Biden will direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community, including when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces, when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe; appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings; when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.”

The summary also indicated that the White House would seek additional funding for businesses and state and local governments. It said it planned to “establish a renewable fund for state and local governments to help prevent budget shortfalls, which may cause states to face steep cuts to teachers and first responders.”

Additionally, it proposed providing “a ‘restart package’ that helps small businesses cover the costs of operating safely, including things like plexiglass and PPE.”

More broadly, the Biden administration plans to work with state and local authorities on a nationwide mask mandate that would require people to wear face coverings whenever they’re near people who are not members of their household.

The Biden administration also plans to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up manufacture of personal protective equipment so that supply exceeds demand. This, it said, should mitigate price fluctuations in masks, gloves and other gear.

It also plans to establish a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps that would hire at least 100,000 people to work in contact tracing in ways that are “culturally competent” in at-risk communities.

Testing is also being ramped up, including more drive-thru testing sites, new instant and at-home tests and a Pandemic Testing Board, “like [President Franklin] Roosevelt’s War Production Board” to produce tens of millions of tests.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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