WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden Monday briefed the nation on the coronavirus Monday morning, pushing for universal mask wearing and acknowledging that cases are sure to climb into the winter months.
“We’re ready to get to work addressing the needs of the American people. Today that work begins. It starts with doing everything possible to get the COVID-19 under control,” Biden said to a crowd of reporters at the Queen theater in Wilmington, Del.
Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received an economic and COVID-19 briefing from advisers prior to the address.
Biden is positioned to inherit a grim coronavirus surge. According to the New York Times, 1 in 144 Americans tested positive for the virus last week. And the most up-to-date data from Johns Hopkins University shows a total of more than 10 million infections and more than 237,000 deaths.
“We’re still facing a very dark winter,” Biden continued, noting that both infections and deaths are going up.
In an effort to come out in front of pandemic mitigation efforts before inauguration, the Biden-Harris transition team announced their COVID-19 advisory board Monday morning. The campaign had its own coronavirus team, but they advised mostly on logistical issues — dissolving in-person headquarters in Philadelphia, suggesting staffers work from home, making recommendations on how many individuals could safely be in the former vice president’s orbit at a time.
Some of those individuals were held over, including former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Notable is the inclusion of immunologist Rick Bright, a former Trump administration Health and Human Services official who was removed from his post after sounding an alarm on “an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement” at the agency.
In his remarks Monday, Biden said more experts will be added to the board. He pledged to expand free testing, create a vaccine distribution plan and expand personal protective equipment production.
“The bottom line: I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around once we’re sworn in on Jan. 20,” Biden said.
Biden’s message comes amid a new coronavirus outbreak in the White House and President Trump’s orbit. Both chief of staff Mark Meadows and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson have tested positive for the virus over the past few days. Carson and Meadows attended the White House election night party last Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News, alongside Attorney General William Barr, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and others.
The president, who recently recovered from a bout with COVID-19 himself, has repeatedly insisted that the country is “rounding the turn” on the virus, though data indicates that’s not the case, with new infections surging to all-time highs.
During his remarks, Biden repeated several times that he was not yet president, but wanted to come out to urge mask wearing and insist on bipartisan participation in mitigation efforts.
“Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” he said. “We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask. Not Democrat or Republican lives — American lives.”
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