On Jan. 20, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, following a tumultuous year, a tense election and a historic win.
From his new presidential Twitter account, Biden wrote: “There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.”
Later that afternoon, Biden signed 17 executive orders regarding various issues, many of which reversed Trump-era legislation. He continued the trend in the following days, signing more executive orders and carrying out official duties as president.
Here are some highlights from his first week in office.
To combat the spread of COVID-19, Biden imposed a mask requirement for federal areas and interstate public transport. He also elected to keep the U.S. in the World Health Organization after Donald Trump had made plans to officially leave. Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with becoming the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, will lead the WHO’s U.S. delegation.
Furthermore, to strengthen his focus on the pandemic, Biden created a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and the role of COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Several other executive orders were directed at increasing testing, treatment and vaccinations.
Biden also placed a temporary halt on evictions, foreclosures and federal student loan payments to alleviate financial struggles during the pandemic.
On his first day, Biden made sweeping changes to his predecessor’s immigration policies. He put deportations on hold, overturned the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, stopped construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, reaffirmed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and ordered that people who are not U.S. citizens be counted in the census.
There could be more to come if Biden’s new immigration bill is passed by Congress. Among other goals, it aims to prevent family separation and strengthen border security.
Biden signed an order to end the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden also recommitted the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord after Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in November 2020. Among those signed orders, Biden is reversing Trump’s environmental policy changes. These efforts strive to address the issue of climate change in the U.S.
Biden’s Cabinet, which is in the process of confirmation by the Senate, will be known for its diversity. Women and people of color constitute a large portion of its 23 members. If confirmed, some will be firsts in terms of representation; for example, nominee for Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland would be the first Native American in the Cabinet.
Another important aspect of the incoming Cabinet is that several nominees have significant past experience working in the federal government, with a few even holding high-ranking positions during the Obama administration.
Biden also reversed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, canceled the 1776 Commission and barred the Justice Department from renewing contracts with private prisons.