President-elect Joe Biden delivered a Thanksgiving address Wednesday in which he acknowledged the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and the political strife that have both taken hold of the country, but pledged that better days lie ahead.
“We’ve fought nearly a yearlong battle with a virus that has devastated this nation. It’s brought us pain and loss and frustration and has cost so many lives, 260,000 Americans and counting,” Biden said in a speech delivered in Wilmington, Del. “It’s divided us, angered us, set us against one another. I know the country has grown weary of the fight, but we need to remember: We’re at war with a virus, not with one another, not with each other.”
As much of the nation prepared to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Biden acknowledged the sacrifice involved as Americans are asked to refrain from attending large gatherings.
“This year we’re asking Americans to forgo so many of the traditions that have long made this holiday ... so special,” Biden said.
His own tradition has been to travel and visit family on Thanksgiving, Biden said, save for the year he lost his son Beau to cancer, a tragedy he used to invoke sympathy for the victims of COVID-19.
“But this year we’ll be staying home. We’ve always had big family gatherings at Thanksgiving — kids, grandkids, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and more,” Biden said, adding that he would instead spend this Thanksgiving only with his wife, Jill, their daughter and son-in-law. “The rest of the family will be doing the same thing in small groups.”
While Biden said he understood how difficult it was for Americans to forgo family traditions, doing so was necessary.
“Our country is in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases,” he said. “We’re now averaging 160,000 new cases a day. No one will be surprised if we hit 200,000 new cases in a single day. Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That’s the plain and simple truth — nothing made up, it’s real.”
Health experts fear that thanks to traditionally large gatherings and a spike in holiday travel, Thanksgiving will further exacerbate the pandemic, a fact that Biden did little to sugarcoat.
“I believe you always deserve to hear the truth, hear the truth from your president,” he said, adding, “We still have months of this battle ahead of us.”
Portraying the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 as “our patriotic duty as Americans,” Biden urged citizens to wear masks, continue social distancing and limit the size of gatherings. He praised the “record-breaking progress made recently in developing a vaccine,” and said the country was on track to deliver the first immunizations for COVID-19 in late December or early January.
But he also cautioned that distributing the vaccine so that all Americans can receive it would “take time.”
“There’s real hope,” Biden said. “So hang on. Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue.”
Over the last 14 days, the number of new COVID-19 cases has risen nationwide by 43 percent. On Tuesday, 2,216 Americans died of the disease, bringing the total deaths in the U.S. to more than 261,000. The explosion of new cases has taken hold as colder weather has descended across much of the nation.
Biden nevertheless sought to deliver a hopeful message amid those daunting statistics.
“America is not going to lose this war. We’ll get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you,” he said, adding, “I still believe we have much to be thankful for. There’s so much to hope for, much to build on, much to dream of.”
Biden noted that even in a year marked by the pandemic, more Americans had voted in the election than in any other year in the nation’s history.
“Our democracy was tested this year, and what we learned was this: The people of this nation are up to the task. In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results,” he said.
But as Biden delivered his remarks, President Trump continued to claim, without evidence, that the election had been stolen from him. Calling into a public relations event held with Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers, he repeated claims made for the news media but not heard by his legal team in a court of law.
“This was an election we won easily,” Trump said. “We won it by a lot.”
While the Trump administration began allowing for the transition to a Biden presidency on Monday, Trump himself has continued to show little inclination to honor Biden’s win.
The president-elect, for his part, did not mention Trump by name in his Wednesday address.
“Americans dream big,” Biden said at one point. “As hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we’re going to dream big again.”
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