President-elect Joe Biden, in an address on the eve of the United States’s holiday Thanksgiving, urged Americans to stay at home amid a surge in coronavirus cases, while rebuking President Donald Trump’s continued challenge of the election results.
Biden called for unity in the face of the pandemic, warning that the US is in the midst of a “dramatic spike in cases” that could see health system overwhelmed.
“I know the country has grown weary at the fight. We need to remember. We’re at war with a virus. not with one another,” Biden said from Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday, as he warned the country could soon start to see more than 200,000 new cases a day. There have been around 170,000 new cases reported each day recently.
“We owe it to the doctors and the nurses and the other front-line workers … who’ve risked their lives, some lost their lives, and put so much on the line in a heroic battle,” said Biden, who urged Americans not to gather in large groups and to wear masks. “We owe that to our fellow citizens who need access to hospital beds care to fight this disease we owe it to one another. It’s literally our patriotic duty as Americans”.
As of Wednesday, 12.5 million infections had been confirmed in the US since the pandemic began, with more than 261,000 deaths. Meanwhile, the numbers of patients admitted to hospital have surged as the US enters its coldest months.
Still, despite warnings from health officials and state leaders, millions of Americans have travelled, or are expected to travel, for the Thanksgiving holiday. In recent days authorities have reported the highest rate of airport travel since the first main surge hit the US.
Biden also said that he was “thankful for democracy” which he said was “tested this year”. He did not specifically reference Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the contest through a series of long-shot lawsuits and legal attempts.
“This last election election … we’ve seen record numbers of Americans exercise their sacred right, that of the vote, to register their will at the ballot box,” Biden said.
“In America we have full and fair and free elections. And then we honour the results,” he said. “The people of this nation. The laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”
Biden is projected to win 306 electoral votes, well above the threshold of 270 needed for victory. Still, Trump has refused to concede, even as his administration as of Monday has begun to cooperate in the transition to the new administration.
Trump, addressing by phone an event organised by Pennsylvania Republicans shortly before Biden’s speech, offered a starkly different account of the election.
The president repeated a string of falsehoods and debunked conspiracy theories that the vote was “rigged”, while calling for his supporters to “turn the election over”.
Pennsylvania on Tuesday officially certified Biden as the winner in the state.