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Monday April 12th

Column: What a new presidential administration means for science

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The transition to a new political administration can be confusing. During a pandemic, knowing how a government plans to address science seems more important than ever.

Here is a quick breakdown of the science-related goals of President Biden’s first 100 days in office (and beyond) and what to expect in the coming months:

Mitigating the spread of COVID-19

One of Biden’s primary goals is to establish and implement a COVID-19 strategy based on scientific research. His 200-page plan is a sharp contrast to the approach of the Trump administration, which was known for politicizing scientific evidence and ignoring public health recommendations. 

The plan aims for better testing by ramping up the production of rapid tests and increasing testing site numbers. Surveillance for new coronavirus variants is also expected to rise, and improvements will be made to online dashboard tracking of virus prevalence. These measures can be used by data analysts and officials to make evidence-based decisions about reopening office buildings and schools.

Aside from tracking the virus, Biden has the goal of administering 100 million vaccines to U.S. residents in his first 100 days. He hopes to do so by creating 100 new vaccine centers and placing mobile vaccination units in underserved areas. 

Additionally, the administration has also stated its intent to rejoin, fund and reform the World Health Organization to prevent future outbreaks from occurring. The United States is also expected to join a consortium aimed at sharing coronavirus vaccines equitably around the globe, likely shortening the lifetime of the pandemic internationally.

Although the plan has been criticized by scientists for lacking detail on funding, staffing and procedures for the proposed initiatives, the quick development of a response program bodes well for the administration’s handling of the virus. 

Climate change policies

One of Biden’s first actions upon taking office was rejoining the Paris Agreement, the largest international effort to curb global warming. The United States withdrew from the agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions while Trump was in office.

Biden also signed an executive order to rescind the Keystone Pipeline permit and ordered that environmental regulations regarding fossil fuel usage be reinstated. 

Throughout his campaign, Biden ran on a platform to cut all greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and become carbon neutral by 2050. Although it seems overzealous, the administration has made clear that addressing climate change will be a priority for the next four years, and hopefully after.

Reinstating health coverage

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have had issues with health care, especially after significant spikes in unemployment. One of Biden’s initial moves was to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to open up special enrollment for a new health insurance plan, subsidized by the federal government.

The goal of the program is to ensure that uninsured Americans who are eligible for government assistance are informed of their eligibility and are able to receive subsequent coverage. This is expected to lead to the protection and development of the Affordable Care Act, with goals of reducing insurance costs, protecting access to reproductive health care and ensuring equitability across the system. 

Though these initiatives are just beginning, the speed at which plans are being proposed and executed signals the effective implementation of science into government policy and decisions. 

We’ll have to wait and see before we assess the success of these programs, but these changes make the future seem a little brighter.

@rajeeganesan

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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