President-elect Joe Biden on Monday implored Americans of all political leanings to wear masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19, saying that doing so was the “single most potent weapon against” the coronavirus.
In his first remarks since his election victory speech Saturday, Biden called for “an end to the politicalisation” of mask-wearing and urged Americans to unite in their efforts to defeat the coronavirus crisis.
“The election is over,” Biden said. “It’s time to put aside the partisanship and the rhetoric designed to demonise one another. ... We’re united in our shared goal: defeating this virus.”
Pfizer, a US pharmaceutical company, announced earlier Monday that its data suggests its vaccine may be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. But any potential vaccine likely wouldn’t be widely available for several months, Biden said during his speech.
“For the foreseeable future, the mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus,” Biden said. “Today’s news does not change that reality.”
It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We could save tens of thousands of lives if we just wear masks for the next few months.
The goal of mask-wearing is not to make your life less comfortable or take something away from you. It’s to give something back to all of us: a normal life. The goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible and masks are critical in doing that. It won’t be forever, but that’s how we’ll get our country back.
Biden’s comments offered a stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about masks. For the first several months of the pandemic, Trump often refused to wear a face covering in public. He has also repeatedly mocked Biden and members of the media for wearing them.
Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in September called face coverings “the most powerful public health tool” in the fight against COVID-19 — possibly even more effective than a potential vaccine.
Earlier Monday, Biden’s presidential transition team announced a 13-member COVID-19 task force that includes former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of Yale University and Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, were also named as members of the task force.
Biden’s task force plans to focus on a number of initiatives, including ramping up the production and distribution of personal protective equipment to medical centers nationwide.
“I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around once we’re sworn in on January 20,” Biden said. “We’ll follow the science.”
As of Monday, there have been nearly 10 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US and over 237,000 deaths. Infection rates have climbed nationwide in recent weeks, with public health experts warning it could get worse over the next few months.
“We’re still facing a very dark winter,” Biden said Monday. “The projections are still indicating we could lose 200,000 more lives in the coming months before a vaccine.”
Watch Biden’s full remarks below: