After a briefing from his Covid-19 advisory board, president-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to wear masks as he raised fears of a “very dark winter” ahead.
His message followed positive developments from drugmaker Pfizer, which announced on Monday that its coronavirus vaccine candidate is “90 per cent effective”.
The president-elect repeated his message of national unity, telling Americans to put aside partisan disputes as the nation endures growing infections, now topping more than 10 million confirmed cases, with nearly 240,000 deaths.
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“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before election day,” he said. “We can save tens of thousands of lives if we just wear a mask.”
Pfizer is expected to file an emergency use application with the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of November, as the drugmaker has arranged with the federal government to distribute up to 100 million doses of the vaccine if it is proved effective.
But “the challenge before us now is still immense and growing”, Mr Biden said in remarks from Delaware.
The public health crisis was central to the 2020 presidential race, in which the former vice president criticised Donald Trump’s delayed response to the outbreak, false claims about its deadly impact that contradicted health experts in his own administration, and failure to coordinate an adequate national response to a disease that continues to infect as many as 100,000 Americans each day, eight months into the emergency.
© Thomson Reuters U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hold a virtual meeting with members of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Advisory Board” in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris have prepared a “blueprint” to combat the virus when they enter office in January.
A 13-member Covid-19 advisory board – which includes health experts from previous presidential administrations – has been tasked with implementing a strategy “built on a bedrock of science” with “compassion and empathy at its core”, Mr Biden said.
The board includes former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler, who served under both the George HW Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, as well as Barack Obama’s former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and Dr Zeke Emanuel, a former Obama adviser who helped design the Affordable Care Act.
Dr Rick Bright, an ousted whistleblower who sounded the alarm in congressional testimony about the current administration’s delayed response and efforts to downplay the outbreak’s severity, also has joined the group.
In a message that appeared to be aimed at the president’s supporters and Americans who have dismissed face coverings as a political cudgel, Mr Biden stressed that masks are “not a political statement” and that they are not designed to “make your life less comfortable”.
“It’s to give something back to all of us, a normal way of life,” he said. “Wearing a mask seems like a small act … But throughout our history, and history of our nation, we’ve seen how small acts add up to enormous achievements.”