WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday called for urgent action on the coronavirus pandemic as he introduced a health care team that will be tested at every turn while striving to restore the nation to normalcy.
Biden laid out three COVID-19 priorities for his first 100 days in office: a call for all Americans to voluntarily mask up during those 100 days, a commitment to administer 100 million vaccines and a pledge to try to reopen a majority of the nation's schools.
“I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose: to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation," Biden said.
The president-elect also said he would use the power of the federal government to require people to wear masks in federal buildings and when traveling from state to state on planes, trains and buses.
Mostly that would codify policies already in place. But Biden said he would urge governors and mayors to impose similar requirements.
Topping the roster of Biden's picks was health secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, a Latino politician who rose from humble beginnings to serve in Congress and as California's attorney general. Others include a businessman renowned for his crisis management skills and a quartet of medical doctors, among them Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease specialist.
The usual feel-good affirmations that accompany such unveilings were overshadowed by urgency, with new cases of COVID-19 averaging more than 200,000 a day and deaths averaging above 2,200 daily as the nation struggles with uncontrolled spread.
Vaccines are expected soon. Scientific advisers to the government meet Thursday to make a recommendation on the first one, a Pfizer shot already being administered in the United Kingdom. Indeed, President Donald Trump held his own event Tuesday, to take credit for his administration's work to speed vaccine development.