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President Joe Biden Says Country At War With Coronavirus As He Signs Executive Orders To Tackle Pandemic

WASHINGTON (CBS) -- President Joe Biden says the country is at war with the coronavirus and he is pledging to speed up the slow rollout of vaccinations. Biden spent his first full day in office laster-focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president signed ten executive orders.

"This is a wartime undertaking," Biden said. "Today, I'm signing executive action to use the Defense Production Act and all other available authorities to direct all federal agencies and private entities to accelerate the making of everything that's needed to protect, test, vaccinate, and take care of our people."

After his remarks, the president and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Dr. Anthony Fauci and his coronavirus team.

On Capitol Hill, the newly Democratic-controlled Senate, with its 50-50 split, continued its work considering the president's cabinet nominees.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Transportation Secretary Nominee Pete Buttigieg emphasized the importance of infrastructure in the fight against COVID-19.

"We have to  ensure all of our transportation systems -- from aviation to public transit, to our railways, roads, ports, our waterways, and pipelines -- are managed safely during this critical period, as we work to defeat the virus for good," Buttigieg said.

Meanwhile, the House is debating ahead of a vote on a legally-required waiver to allow retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as defense secretary. He's been out of uniform less than the mandated seven years.

"It is the day after Mr. Biden has become president, he needs a secretary of defense," said Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The White House confirms Biden plans to ask Trump-appointee Christopher Wray to stay on as FBI director.

CBS News correspondent Natalie Brand reports.


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