WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation from Wilmington, Delaware on Monday after being briefed by members of his newly-established coronavirus transition team.
Biden, who had centered his presidential campaign around the Trump administration’s failure to contain the pandemic and repeatedly promised to tackle COVID “on day one” of his own term in office, reiterated the pledge during his Monday speech.
“I will spare no effort to turn the pandemic around once we are sworn in on January 20th,” Biden began. “To get our kids back to school safely, our businesses growing, and our economy running full speed again, and to get an approved vaccine manufactured and distributed as quickly as possible to as many Americans as possible, free of charge. We will follow the science.”
But the main point that the president-elect hammered home was simple: wear a mask.
“Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” Biden said. “Do it for yourself. Do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement but it is a good way to start pulling the country together.”
Biden appealed for unity, urging Americans to come together in the face of the deadly pandemic.
“This election is over. It’s time to put aside the partisanship and rhetoric designed to demonize each other. We have to come together to heal the soul of this country,” Biden said in part, adding: “The single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID is to wear a mask.”
Biden is set to take the reins as the pandemic climbs to a new apex. Over the past two weeks, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen nearly 65%: the 7-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. went from 66,294 on Oct. 25 to 108,736.7 on Nov. 8.
In the past week, 1 out of every 433 Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19. Hospitals in several states are running out of space and staff, and the death toll is soaring. So far, the U.S. has recorded more than 9.8 million infections and more than 237,000 deaths from COVID-19.
The president-elect acknowledged the challenging months ahead on Monday.
“We're still facing a very dark winter,” Biden said. “There are now nearly 10 million covid cases in the United States. Last week we topped 120,000 new cases on multiple successive days. Infection rates are going up, hospitalizations are going up, deaths are going up.”
The members of Biden’s coronavirus transition task force, which includes former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University public health care expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, will help the incoming administration develop its pandemic response.
The briefing came just hours after Pfizer announced that an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. The company, which developed the vaccine with the German drugmaker BioNTech, said it is on track to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators later this month.
“Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country,” Biden said in a statement before his address, noting that the vaccine does not change the “urgent reality” that Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, and other mitigation in the months ahead.
“The challenge for us now and still immense and growing,” Biden added during his speech, simultaneously cheering the news about the promising development of a coronavirus vaccine while cautioning Americans for the need to be aggressive about mask wearing and social distancing as infections continue to surge around the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.