The first is executive action: using either usual presidential powers or those granted by the national state of emergency. For example, the president can use the Defense Production Act to direct American companies to increase production of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment like masks and eye coverings. Trump has used the DPA some. Biden is expected to use it more. While these mandates come with limited funding, they can be effective. The DPA can be used to require that companies set side resources so that forthcoming anticipated orders can be quickly fulfilled. If the Pfizer vaccine ends up being as effective as currently hoped, for example, a large quantity of dry ice will be needed to keep the lots at –80°C temperatures during transport and on-sight storage. The DPA can direct companies to take (or avoid) actions that would create bottlenecks in any declared national priorities, such as vaccine distribution. The DPA even allows exceptions to monopoly/anti-trust laws. The taskforce’s job, then, will be to help the Biden-Harris team identify the right priorities, based on its ongoing assessment of current and foreseen needs.

The second way that the White House can affect the pandemic response is to announce priorities to the Cabinet and to federal agencies. If Biden directs FEMA to roll out more testing facilities, they will do so. If the president directs the Army National Guard to construct field hospitals, they will do so — and quickly. The White House can urge the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to be more rigorous in adjudicating emergency use authorization applications for potential therapies to treat COVID-19. That way, the public will have faith in the medicines being offered, and have more realistic expectations about those that are not.

Lastly, Biden can shape any action from Congress by indicating policies he will or won’t support.