President-elect Joe Biden announced a broad but vague plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, including a national mask rule, distributing 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations and a push to return children to the nation’s classrooms.
At a press conference in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday where he unveiled his health team, Biden said the plan had been developed in consultation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will also serve on his COVID-19 team.
“I’m absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” Biden said, while also warning of vaccine shortages and a “dark winter.”
“In my first 100 days, I’m going to ask for a masking plan, asking everyone for the first 100 days of my administration to wear a mask,” the president-elect said.
Biden said he would sign an order “on day one” mandating mask-wearing in federal buildings and for “interstate travel” on planes, trains and buses.
“Wear a mask for the first 100 days. It’s the easiest thing to do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Help yourself, your family and your community,” he said.
Biden also announced his White House would ensure that there would be “100 million shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days” in what he called the “most efficient mass vaccination plan in US history.”
Earlier Tuesday, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration found Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and eligible for emergency use — meaning the first Americans could receive a shot in coming days.
Biden also called on Congress to pass more funding for vaccines.
The third pillar of Biden’s plan is a push to reopen as many schools as possible after pandemic robbed the nation’s children of nearly an entire in-person school year.
The 78-year-old also unveiled his health team, who have largely been announced already and will inherit a public health crisis which has so far infected 15 million Americans and killed another 284,000.
Xavier Becerra, California’s current attorney general, was a surprise choice to run the Health and Human Services Department given his lack of public health expertise.
If confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate, Becerra will have the difficult task of leading the enormous department as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen and infection and hospitalization rates rise.
The former congressman, who would be the first Latino to hold the position, was reportedly chosen for the cabinet job given his role at the forefront of the fight to protect the Affordable Care Act in California.
Biden also tapped Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to lead his Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Walensky’s experience fighting devastating diseases such as HIV/AIDS would make her an ideal candidate to head the CDC amid the coronavirus pandemic, but some critics raised concerns over her lack of experience managing a large public health agency.
Both Walensky and Becerra will be in charge of managing the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine which could be administered to the first Americans within days after Food and Drug Administration scientists on Tuesday confirmed Pfizer’s drug was safe and effective and eligible for emergency use.
Vivek Murthy will return to the role of Surgeon General, a role in which he serve previously under former President Barack Obama.