In his first official acts as president, Joe Biden is signing executives orders on a broad range of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change and immigration, to fulfill campaign promises.

Highlights of actions Biden is taking Wednesday:


MASK REQUIREMENT: Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors. Consistently masking up is a practice that science has shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

He is challenging all Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration. That’s a critical period since communities will still be vulnerable to the virus even as the pace of vaccination increases in pursuit of Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Biden also is directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization, which Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the coronavirus.

Symbolizing Biden’s commitment to a more prominent global role, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci will deliver a speech Thursday to the WHO as head of a U.S. delegation. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, will lay out how the administration intends to work with the WHO on reforms, supporting the coronavirus response and promoting global health and health security



PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD: Biden will sign executive orders to rejoin the Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign pledge to get back into the global climate pact on Day One. Trump, a supporter of oil, gas, and coal, had made a first priority of pulling out of global efforts to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions.

It will take 30 days for the U.S. to officially be back in.

REVIEWING TRUMP ROLLBACKS: Biden’s Day One plans also include a temporary moratorium on new Trump administration oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, moving to revoke a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline, and reviewing a Trump administration freeze on vehicle mileage and emissions standards. Biden also is setting in motion an evaluation of another Trump move that cut boundaries and protections for some national monuments.

Agencies will be directed to consider the impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities and on future generations from any regulatory action that affected fossil fuel emissions, a new requirement.



ENDING BAN ON MUSLIM TRAVELERS: Biden is ending what is variously known as the “travel ban” or the “Muslim ban,” one of the first acts of the Trump administration. Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entry into the country. After a lengthy court fight, a watered-down version of the rule was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in 2018.

The new administration says it will improve the screening of visitors by strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures.

BORDER WALL: Biden is immediately ending the national emergency that Trump declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the Defense Department to wall construction. He also is halting construction to review contracts and how wall money might be redirected.

Despite Trump’s repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Americans have committed $15 billion for more than 700 miles (1,120 kilometers). It is unclear how many miles are under contract and what penalties the government would have to pay for canceling them.

The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for Feb. 22 on the legality of Trump’s diverting Defense Department funds for counter-narcotics efforts and military construction projects to wall construction.

DACA: Biden will order his Cabinet to work to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012.

Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, triggering a legal challenge that ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place because the Trump administration failed to follow federal rule-making guidelines in undoing it. But DACA is still facing legal challenges.

In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship. There are currently about 700,000 people enrolled.

DEPORTATIONS: Biden is revoking one of Trump’s first executive orders, which declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are considered priorities for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden’s campaign site says deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats.

The order says nothing about a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised during the campaign. Susan Rice, who is tapped to run the White House Domestic Policy Council, says any decision on moratoriums would come from Homeland Security.

CENSUS: Biden is reversing a Trump plan to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the 2020 Census. The once-a-decade census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

Biden’s team says the new administration will ensure the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate count for each state and that the apportionment is “fair and accurate.”



Biden is asking the Education Department to extend a pause on federal student loan payments through at least Sept. 30, continuing a moratorium that began early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of January.

Borrowers, who owe a collective $1.5 trillion, would not be required to make payments on their federal student loans, their loans would not accrue any interest, and all debt collection activity would halt through September.

Congress paused student debt payments last March as part of a virus relief package, and the Trump administration extended it twice.

Biden’s order does not include the type of mass debt cancellation that some Democrats asked him to orchestrate through executive action. He has said that action should come from Congress.



Housing foreclosures and evictions would be delayed until at least March 31, 2021. Almost 12% of homeowners with mortgages are late on their payments, while 19% of renters are behind, according to a Census Bureau survey of households.

The federal moratoriums would ensure that people could stay in their homes even if they cannot afford their monthly bills. Biden is also calling on Congress to extend assistance to renters. While the moratoriums have aided several million Americans during the pandemic and helped to contain the disease, they have also meant that billions of dollars in housing costs have gone unpaid.

In the epilogue of his 2017 biography Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, Joe Biden laid out his priorities for the rest of his life:

"I want to spend as much time with my family, and I want to help change the country and the world for the better. That duty does much more than giving me purpose; it gives me something to hope for. It makes me nostalgic for the future."

His wife, children, and grandchildren were deeply embedded in the stories he told in his final, successful campaign for the presidency, and now that they're the First Family, none of them are likely to fade from view. Here is the Bidens you need to know.

Joe Biden with his wife, Jill, at the Democrats' convention in August.

Joe Biden with his wife, Jill, at the Democrats' convention in August.CREDIT:GETTY

Jill Biden: Jill Tracy Jacobs met Joe Biden on a blind date, set up by his brother Frank, three years after the tragic death of his first wife Neilia and his one-year-old daughter Naomi in a car accident. After proposing to her five times, the couple eventually married in 1977, with Jill becoming the stepmother to Joe’s two remaining children, Beau (who died of cancer in 2015) and Hunter. The new First Lady obtained her doctorate in 2007, one year before her husband was appointed vice-president under Barack Obama. The doctorate recently became the subject of a sexist opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which author Joseph Epstein suggested she “drop the honorific” because, in his view, it appeared “fraudulent”. Since 2009, she has been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. Now 69, she intends to continue teaching while First Lady.

Joe Biden talking with then US Army Captain Beau Biden, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq in 2009.

Joe Biden talking with then US Army Captain Beau Biden, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. CREDIT:AP

Beau Biden: Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III was the eldest son of Joe Biden, having survived the car crash that killed his mother and sister 30 years ago. The former Delaware Attorney General was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party but died of brain cancer five years ago at the age of 46. It was yet another family tragedy for his father who, to this day, carries Beau’s rosary beads in his pocket wherever he goes. Beau was also a close friend of new Vice-President Kamala Harris - the pair served as Attorneys General for their respective states at the same time - and the President admits this played some part in his decision to pick Harris as his running mate last year. Beau is survived by his wife Hallie and children Natalie and Robert Hunter Biden.

Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden's son.

Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden's son.CREDIT:AP

Hunter Biden: Joe Biden’s most controversial child, now 50, has been the subject of ongoing attacks from Republicans, who have repeatedly accused him, without evidence, of corruption over his role on the board of Burisma Holdings, an energy and exploration company based in Ukraine. He is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware, who are reportedly examining whether he and his associates violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in China. Hunter kept a low profile during his father’s campaign but was the subject of one of Donald Trump’s most memorable attacks during the first presidential debate in October. During an aggressive tirade, Trump highlighted Hunter’s previous drug addiction, prompting an emotional Biden to reply: “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, had an addiction. He’s fixed it, he’s worked on it - and I’m proud of my son.”

Joe Biden's daughter Ashley has given her first interview ahead of her father's inauguration as US President.

Ashley Biden: The 39-year-old daughter of Joe and Jill Biden is a social worker, fashion designer, and community advocate. She spent more than seven years as the associated director of the Delaware Centre of Justice, before founding her clothing brand Livelihood in 2017, which she has used to raise money for community programs. Unlike Ivanka Trump, who took on a formal role as an "advisor to the president", Ashley has already ruled out taking on a job in her father’s new administration. However, she says she will use her profile to highlight issues she cares about, such as income inequality and education. "She's been trying to change the world since she was three years old,” Biden once told E! News of his daughter, “and I think she's going to do it."

Joe Biden's granddaughters: 
Maisy, Finnegan, Naomi and Natalie.

Joe Biden's granddaughters: Maisy, Finnegan, Naomi and Natalie.

Naomi Biden: Naomi Biden is one of the president’s seven grandchildren and the eldest daughter of Joe’s son, Hunter. She was named after Hunter’s late sister, who was killed in the 1972 car crash that also claimed the life of the president’s first wife. A Columbia Law student, the 26-year-old Naomi appears to share her grandfather's passion for politics, often outlining her forthright views on Twitter. She was also a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate with Tiffany Trump (Donald Trump’s only child with his second wife, Marla Maples) appearing in an Instagram photo posted by Tiffany during a weekend trip to the Hamptons in 2018. Naomi has two siblings: Finnegan and Maisy.

Joe Biden arrives with his wife Jill Biden, left, and sister Valerie Biden, right, to a primary night rally Los Angeles in 2020

Joe Biden arrives with his wife Jill Biden, left, and sister Valerie Biden, right, to a primary night rally Los Angeles in 2020CREDIT:BLOOMBERG

Valerie Biden Owens: The 75-year-old sister of America’s 46th president has been one of his closest political confidantes for decades. A political strategist, Valerie has helped run her older brother’s many campaigns: firstly for county councilman, then as a US Senator, and finally, for his first two Democratic bids for president: in 1988 and 2002. Biden’s 2020 presidential bid was the first campaign not run by Valerie, although she helped him prepare for every debate and scrutinised all major ads before they were publicly released. “She has been my best friend my entire life,” Biden wrote in his autobiography. She is currently the vice chair of the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.

Joe Biden with his sons and his first wife, Neilia, in 1972, months before she died in a car crash.

Joe Biden with his sons and his first wife, Neilia, in 1972, months before she died in a car crash.CREDIT:AP

Neilia Hunter and Naomi Biden: Joe Biden met his first wife Neilia while on spring break in the Bahamas after he and some friends attempted to sneak into an expensive hotel by wrapping a hotel towel around their waists to get past the security guards. According to his mates, Biden spotted the young Neilia lying by the pool, reportedly telling them: “I’ve got the blonde”. The couple married in 1966 but tragedy struck six years later. His family had been Christmas shopping near their home in Delaware, when a tractor-trailer smashed into their car, killing Neilia and their 15-month-old daughter Naomi. Biden, then almost 30, was in Washington at the time, having just been elected to the US Senate. “I know how to mean, cruel, and unfair life can be sometimes,” he said during his presidential campaign last year, “but I found the best way through pain, and loss and grief are to find purpose.”

James Biden: Joe Biden’s younger brother James, 71, was thrown into the spotlight last year after a former business associate of Hunter Biden emerged on the campaign trail claiming he could confirm allegations of Hunter’s dubious dealings with China. The allegations had been pushed by Republicans for months without clear cut evidence, cultivating in the former associate, Tony Bobulinski, coming forward for Trump in a bizarre attempt to implicate Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and James Biden in a pre-election scandal. It was not the first time, however, that the younger Biden brother faced public scrutiny: last year, Politico reported that a health care business linked to James had been raided as part of an investigation that was not directly related to him.

Joe and Jill Biden's dogs, Champ and Major, will be moving into the White House.

Joe and Jill Biden's dogs, Champ and Major, will be moving into the White House.CREDIT:

Champ and Major: Donald Trump was the first president since Andrew Johnson in the 1860s not to have a pet in the White House. But this week, Champ and Major - the Bidens’ two German shepherds - will resume the tradition when they take up residence in the West Wing as part of the new First Family. Champ was adopted as a puppy in 2008 and named by Biden’s granddaughters Maisy and Finnegan. Major, who will be the West Wing’s first-ever rescue dog, was adopted in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association.