President-elect Joe Biden asked Americans to wear a mask as coronavirus cases throughout the country soar.
He said that wearing a mask could help the country manage the coronavirus pandemic, save lives, and allow schools and businesses to reopen.
Biden’s comments came after Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their Covid-19 vaccine was proven more than 90% effective in preventing the virus that causes Covid-19 among those without proof of prior infection.
“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day. It doesn’t matter your party or your point of view,” Biden said about wearing a mask. “We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months.”
Epidemiologists and medical experts say that the pandemic would still face its worst period. The country posted over 105,900 new infections on Sunday, bringing the seven-day average up over 108,700, a rise of over 33% compared with a week ago, based on a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Biden stressed the pandemic requires bold action as the U.S. approaches “very dark winter.”
“Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” Biden said. “Do it for yourself. Do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling the country together.”
Biden’s statements oppose that of President Donald Trump, who did not agree to wearing a mask in public for months during the initial phase of the pandemic.
Top health authorities, including Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized that masks are one of the most effective ways to minimize the spread of the virus.
“I want to be very clear: The goal of mask-wearing is not to make your life less comfortable, or to take something away from you,” Biden said Monday. “It is to give something back to all of us, a normal life.”
Moreover, the new president said he will improve the availability of rapid diagnostic testing across the country. The Trump administration has significantly increased testing since the start of the outbreak, but some public health experts point out that the government should have spent more on testing. Those who call for more widespread testing say that it helps trace infectious people, who can then quarantine and break chains of transmission before they turn into outbreaks.
Aside from testing, Biden shared he is “building a corps of contact tracers who will track and curb this disease.”
Biden also promised to accelerate the production of personal protective equipment such as medical gowns, gloves, and masks. Based on the website for the president-elect’s transition team, Biden states that he plans to “fully use the Defense Production Act” to increase the supply of PPE.
Biden’s Covid-19 coronavirus advisory board
On Monday, Biden also announced the members of his Covid-19 “advisory board.” The panel is co-chaired by former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of Yale University.
Dr. Rick Bright, the vaccine expert and whistleblower who resigned his post with the Trump administration last month, is also a member. Bright previously led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” that the U.S. is “about to enter Covid hell.”
“We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun,” Osterholm said. “The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic.”