COVID-19: Biden pleads ‘wear a mask’ ahead of ‘very dark winter’

Biden says he is taking a leadership role in efforts against the coronavirus until he assumes office in January 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks after the first briefing of his newly launched coronavirus task force [Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo]

US President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation after meeting with his transition coronavirus advisory board on Monday, calling for unity and simple steps to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said, “Please, I implore you, wear a mask” during the speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

He noted masks could save the lives of older people, children and teachers and added: “It could even save your own life.”

Biden became the projected winner of the US presidential election on Saturday, after Pennsylvania was called for the former vice president.

Biden is currently projected to have 290 Electoral College votes, more than the 270 required for victory, according to The Associated Press news agency. Trump currently sits at 214, with Alaska and North Carolina still not called but favouring the president. Georgia too close to call and the small margin will trigger an automatic recount.

President Donald Trump has not conceded the race and is mounting legal challenges across the US.

A dark winter

Exit polls showed the coronavirus pandemic, positive cases of which are rising throughout the US, as one of the electorate’s greatest concerns.

Biden pledged to make rapid testing more widely available, “building a corps of contact tracers who will track and curb” COVID-19, and providing guidance and necessary resources for small businesses, schools, and childcare centres to reopen. Biden said it was “imperative” the US increase the production of personal protective equipment.

Positive news about possible coronavirus vaccines was welcomed, though Biden warned the process “must also be grounded in science and fully transparent, so that the American people can have confidence that any approved vaccine is safe and effective. At the same time, it’s clear that this vaccine, even if it is approved, will not be widely available for many months yet to come.”

The US still faces a “very dark winter”, Biden said.

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Shania Dod opens a test kit to collect a sample from a patient at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site in Houston [David J Phillip/AP Photo]

The president-elect said although he would not take office until January 20, he was assuming a leadership role during his transition.

As Biden, who was joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, put forward his plans for the transition, the Trump administration faced calls to collaborate with Biden’s team to ensure a smooth transfer of power when the new administration takes office in January.

The General Services Administration is tasked with formally recognising Biden as president-elect, which begins the transition. But the agency’s Trump-appointed administrator, Emily Murphy, has not started the process and has given no guidance on when she will do so.

“This election is over. It is time to put aside the partisanship and the rhetoric designed to demonise one another,” Biden said. “It’s time to end the politicisation of basic responsible public health steps like mask wearing and social distancing.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies