Vaccines, executives orders, economic recovery shape Pres. Biden’s first 100 days

National

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden came into office facing a list of issues that needed immediate action, ranging from a struggling economy, nationwide demands for racial equity, foreign interference in our elections and the aftershocks of armed rioters storming the Capitol building.

Biden swept into the Oval Office with a flurry of executive action, 19 orders and other directives in three days, many of them rolling back former President Donald Trump administration policies.

As he rounds out his first 100 days in office, President Biden’s focus on reigning in the coronavirus pandemic during the early months of his administration seems to have paid off.

Mr. Biden’s promised vaccination of 100 million coronavirus shots in his first 100 days seemed ambitious when he announced it in December. Still, by Inauguration Day, with the U.S. already vaccinating almost a million people a day, a new goal of 150 million shots in arms was set. It was eventually raised to 200 million — which goal was reached on April 23.

To get it done, he invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up vaccination supplies, opened more vaccination sites, and authorized more vaccinators — allowing medical professionals from medical students to veterinarians to EMTs all to deliver shots.

The effort got a boost after Congress passed and Biden signed into law the administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure, achieving one of the president’s main objectives while simultaneously failing at another getting bipartisan support.

The bill passed without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate. The administration called the measure bipartisan, citing support among Republican voters and mayors.

White House officials said it’s one key part of the overall pandemic strategy.

After months of steadily rising COVID-19 cases — peaking in January at 313,000 in one day — the tide began to turn, dropping to an average of 52,000 in mid-March before rising slightly and leveling off.

As of Monday, more than 231 million shots have been administered, and 95 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while the CDC reports more than 3 million Americans were getting vaccinated every day, those numbers have fallen off in recent days, raising concern about growing vaccine hesitancy at the same time new COVID variants are spreading in the U.S.

Both could pose a challenge to public health and slow the economic recovery.

“We have a huge divide between those who are doing OK and those who continue to struggle,” said economist Mark Hamrick.

The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan dished out $1,400 checks to most Americans, plus thousands more for most families with children, to stimulate the economy.

The unemployment rate fell to 6% in March; it’s the lowest level since the pandemic began, far better than its 14% peak.

However, Hamrick says unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“There’s still going to be a sizeable component of the American population which will continue to struggle and will take some time to get back to their pre-pandemic condition,” Hamrick said.

Data from the National Women’s Law Center shows nearly 500,000 more women left the workforce than men — many had to remain home with their children whose schools haven’t reopened for in-person classes.

Biden’s grade on reopening schools is still unclear, in part due to shifting targets. After he first announced he wanted a majority of schools open, Biden later narrowed the target to kindergarten through 8th grade. Currently, the vast majority of schools offer at least a hybrid of classroom and online learning, with just under half fully in-person.

Biden has delivered on a number of his biggest campaign pledges focused on climate change and the economy as well. But some issues have proved to be tougher for the administration — including immigration, where Biden is grappling with how to enact promised reforms in the face of a steep increase in unaccompanied minors seeking to cross the border. On some of his promises, Biden is waiting for Congress to act.

Several new polls show a majority of Americans approve of the way Biden is handling his job as president so far. A Pew Research Center poll showed his approval rating as high at 59%, with the highest marks coming from his handling of the pandemic, while 39% disapprove.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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