On his first day as president of the United States last Wednesday, President Joseph Biden signed his first three executive orders before reporters in the Oval Office of the White House – implementing a mandate for wearing face masks, increasing support for unserved communities in the COVID-19 pandemic, and rejoining the Paris climate accord.
The first is part of Biden’s plan of action for the country’s biggest problem today – the pandemic. The executive order “100 Days Masking Challenge” calls for a nationwide mandate for face mask wearing and social distancing in all federal buildings and by all federal employees and contractors. The President had earlier said he would appeal to all Americans to wear face masks for at least the first 100 days. A “Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” originally created for the 2014 ebola epidemic, will implement a program of vaccines, testing, and personal protective equipment.
The second executive order extended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures on federally backed mortgages. More than 11 million mortgages are guaranteed by the Departments of Agriculture, of Housing and Urban Development, and of Veterans Affairs. Student loan payments were also suspended until September 30.
The third executive order called for the US to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, calling for the world’s nations to cut down their carbon emissions which are causing world temperatures to rise, melting polar glaciers, raising ocean levels, and spawning more violent hurricanes and typhoons. After President Trump won in 2016, one of his first moves was to take the US out of the Paris Agreement, the only nation to do so, even if the US was the second biggest contributor, after China, to carbon pollution in the world environment.
Several other executive orders were ready for signing by President Biden Wednesday – restoring the inclusion of non-citizens in the US census, strengthening protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, calling on Congress to grant a path to citizenship for almost a million undocumented young people – called “Dreamers” — brought into the country as children.
President Biden ended the “Muslim travel ban” – which restricted travel and immigration to the US from Muslim countries. And he reversed President Trump’s move to remove the US from the World Health Organization (WHO). “He will restore America’s role leading the world through this global crisis,” said Biden’s czar on administration’s COVID-19 response.
All this in one day. Fifteen executive orders carried out changes he promised during the election campaign on issues that had made US under President Trump appear to be withdrawing from policies for which the US had long been known – among its own people and among the world’s nations.
We welcome this return of US action and concern in so many causes and issues. We welcome most of all the US return to membership in the Paris Climate Agreement and to involvement and leadership in the World Health Organization in this time of the pandemic.