President Biden signs 15 executive orders on his first day in office, from COVID response to climate

Joe Biden
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 20, 2021

DENVER — After a morning filled with ceremony, tradition and a transition of power, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden got straight to work Wednesday, signing 15 executive orders.

The executive orders ranged from immigration to COVID response, the climate to the economy.

Some of those executive orders will have an immediate impact on Colorado. Denver7 spoke with three experts about what they will be paying attention to in these first 100 days in office.

COVID Response

Many of the executive orders the president signed Wednesday were aimed to mitigate the COVID pandemic, including a 100-day mask mandate for all federal property.

The president also signed an action to structure a coordinated federal response to the pandemic.

Glen Mays, a professor of health policy at the Colorado School of Public Health, says the Trump administration’s approach was much more decentralized and allowed the decision-making for how to respond to the pandemic happen on a state and local level.

“The benefits of that approach that we can tailor resources to local circumstances where we have needs across the state,” Mays said. “The limitation of that very decentralized approach can be a lack of coordination.”

That lack of coordination could lead to disparities and inequities in the response to the pandemic Mays said. Another problem he sees with that decentralized approach is that different strategies by states could fuel public skepticism since some areas are enforcing tighter restrictions than others.

“I think it certainly has the potential to shift the strategy to more of a national strategy for the vaccine roll out and potentially a nationally consistent strategy for prioritizing populations,” Mays said.

While Colorado has closely aligned its vaccine priority list with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a nationalized strategy could shift the current approach Colorado is taking. Some of the bottlenecks and miscommunication about vaccine availability could also be eliminated with a more nationalized plan, according to Mays.

Another executive order President Biden signed stop the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

“Recognizing that this is a global pandemic and as Americans were not going to be fully protected unless we are fighting this pandemic not just in our homeland but also all the other places where it exists because of the mobility of populations,” Mays said.

The Biden administration has also committed itself to getting 100 million doses of the COVID vaccine out to Americans within its first 100 days and re-investing in public health infrastructure and staffing.

Economic Recovery

Along with committing itself to tackling the public health crisis, President Biden signed executive orders to extend the federal eviction moratorium and to continue to defer the repayments of student debt, both of which were first implemented under the Trump administration.

“You’re getting down to the consumer level, which is important because they’re the ones that need the most help,” said Mac Clouse, a professor of finance at the Univeristy of Denver.

In the days before his inauguration, Biden also revealed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill and proposed an additional $1,400 stimulus check for low and middle class Americans.

Before he left office, President Trump had also pushed unsuccessfully for $2,000 checks for Americans.

“All of those help the consumer write in the pocketbook which is the most important thing that can be done right now,” Clouse said.


Surrounded by cameras during his first hours in the Oval Office, one of the first orders the new president signed was an action for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

Alice Madden, the Executive Director of the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado at Boulder believes Colorado will see change from this executive order in the form of air quality.

“There will be a big focus on air quality. The EPA is really the main entity responsible for us meeting our responsibilities under the climate agreement and a lot of that falls under the clean air act,” Madden said.

In order to comply with the agreement, Madden says a lot of responsibility will be placed first on the Biden administration to build the EPA back up and second on the EPA to enforce policies.

“There will be many things happening all at once, particularly unraveling the rules and regulations that Trump has done that have hurt the environment and set back climate policies,” Madden said.

The president also signed an executive order Wednesday rolling back some of the regulations the previous administration had put in place on the environment.

Madden believes oil and gas companies that have not had the political will over the past four years to work on their environmental policies since President Trump had loosened regulations quite a bit.

“There’s going to be more accountability and more transparency for these corporations, but I believe they will adapt,” she said. “With the right financial incentive and regulatory boundaries these corporations could actually continue oil and gas drilling in a much safer manner.”

On the other hand, Clouse says these tighter restrictions could have a negative impact on the oil and gas industry in Colorado, which has already been struggling during the pandemic.

‘There are people from the oil and gas industry who said that could reduce jobs very significantly in Colorado. Numbers I’ve seen are around 15,00 or 18,000 jobs lost if we reduce the oil and gas industry here,” he said.

For its part, the American Petroleum Industry put out a state Wednesday promising to fight President Biden’s regulations for oil and gas drilling and calling for the president to work with them on policy reforms.

“If he is interested in finding commonsense solutions, President Biden has a willing and able partner in the oil and gas industry,” said Mike Sommers, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute in a statement sent to Denver7.

President Biden also signed executive actions dealing with immigration and racial equality in the federal government among other thing. The 15 executive orders were the most signed by a president during their first day in office in recent history.

Editor's Note: An update made to this story on Thursday afternoon corrects a quote from Madden.