President-Elect Joe Biden introduced the individuals he will nominate to key health and COVID positions in remarks in Wilmington, DE, and declared three key actions he would take in the first 100 days of his administration to turn around the skyrocketing rates of coronavirus sickness, hospitalizations and deaths: promote masking, facilitate vaccinations, and opening schools.
The key health and COVID members – widely hailed for their expertise and accomplishments – include:
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Xavier Becerra
Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team: Jeff Zients
Surgeon General of the United States: Dr. Vivek Murthy
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky
COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair: Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
Head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor on COVID-19: Dr. Anthony Fauci
Here are remarks, as prepared for delivery, highlighted:
President-Elect Joe Biden
Today, I am announcing our health care and COVID team at a critical time, as we near the end of one of the toughest years we’ve faced as a nation.
More than 285,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19 — and counting.
Last week, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death in America.
For Black, Latino, and Native Americans — who are nearly three times as likely to die from it — COVID-19 is a mass casualty event.
For families and friends left behind, it’s a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal.
And as a country, we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long that we’re at risk of becoming numb to its toll on us.
We’re resigned to feel there is nothing we can do. That we can’t trust one another. That we must accept the death, the pain, and the sorrow.
We are in the midst of this deadly pandemic that has infected almost 15 million Americans — one out of every 22 of our people — often with devastating consequences to their health.
And at this very moment, what is the outgoing Administration asking the Supreme Court of the United States to do?
To repeal in its entirety the Affordable Care Act.!
A law that’s on the frontlines against the pandemic.
That protects more than 100 million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions — which now includes lung scarring and heart damage from COVID-19.
That provides coverage to more than 20 million Americans who get the care they need if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The law that fulfills our moral obligation that, here in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.
But I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose — to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation.
Today, I am pleased to announce the team that will do just that.
It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields. Crisis-tested. Defined by a deep sense of duty, honor, and patriotism.
They are ready on Day One to spare no effort and get the pandemic under control, so we can get back to work, back to our lives, and back to our loved ones.
They will lead the COVID-19 response across our government to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain, and distribute the vaccine.
They will work with my economic team — because controlling the pandemic, delivering better health care, and reviving the economy go hand in hand.
They will work with my foreign policy and national security team — because we can only beat this virus if we beat it everywhere.
And today I am announcing that — in consultation with Dr. Tony Fauci — we’ve developed the first three objectives and new initiatives that I am asking this team to complete during my first 100 days in office.
My first 100 days won’t end COVID-19. I cannot promise that. We did not get into this mess quickly, and it’s going to take time to fix.
But I am convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.
First, my 100 day masking plan.
It starts with my signing an order on Day One to require masks where I can — like federal buildings and interstate travel on planes, trains, and buses.
I’ll be working with governors and mayors to do the same in states and cities.
We are going to require masks wherever possible, but this goes beyond government action.
And so, as a new President, I’m going to speak directly to the American people.
We need your help. Wear a mask for 100 days.
It’s the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Help yourself, your family, your community. Whatever your politics or point of view — mask up for 100 days.
100 days to make a difference.
It’s not a political statement — it’s a patriotic act.
It won’t be the end of our efforts. But it’s a necessary and easy start.
Second, this team will help get at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of Americans in 100 days.
We will follow the guidance of scientists and get vaccines to those most at-risk.
That includes health care personnel and people in long-term care; and, as soon as possible, that will include educators.
This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history. I credit everyone who has gotten us to this point, but developing the vaccine is one herculean task.
Distributing it is another.
And vaccines in a vial only work if they are injected into the arms of people, especially those most at risk.
This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our history.
We’re going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of our country.
I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress around a $900 billion economic relief package, which I’ve said is critical now, but this package is only a start for more action early next year.
We must also focus significant resources on the direct public health response to COVID-19.
Our preliminary review of the Trump Administration’s vaccine distribution plan confirms media reports.
Without urgent action this month by Congress to put sufficient resources into vaccine distribution and manufacturing — which the bipartisan group is working on — there is a real chance that, after an early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall.
Let me repeat: We need Congress to finish the bipartisan work underway now or
millions of Americans may wait months longer — months longer — than they otherwise would have to to get their vaccinations.
And then we will need additional action next year to fund the rest of our distribution efforts.
We also need the Trump Administration to act now to purchase the doses it has negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna and to work swiftly to scale manufacturing for the U.S. population and the world.
This can be fixed.
If it does, my team will be able to get at least 100 million vaccinations done in my first 100 days.
Third, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school.
If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators, and staff, and if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.
That’s right, we will look to have most of the schools open in 100 days if Congress provides the funding we need.
Masking. Vaccinations. Opening schools.
These are three key goals for my first 100 days.
But we will still have much to do in the year ahead. And sadly, much difficulty, too. We will be far, far from done.
Yet, it is possible that after 100 days, we will be much further along in the fight against the pandemic.
And I’m grateful for the members of my core COVID team, that I will now introduce, to lead the way.
For Secretary of Health and Human Services, I nominate Xavier Becerra.
He’s currently Attorney General of California, leading the second largest Justice Department in America — only behind the United States Department of Justice.
For nearly 25 years before that, he was a Congressman representing Los Angeles, one of America’s largest and most diverse cities.
Xavier spent his career fighting to expand access to health care, reduce racial health disparities, protect the Affordable Care Act, and take on powerful special interests who prey on and profit off people’s health — from opioid manufacturers to Big Tobacco.
During the pandemic, he’s protected the safety of frontline healthcare workers, rooted out fraud from bad actors taking advantage of people, and stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgage during the devastating economic crisis.
And as HHS Secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and FDA, Medicare and Medicaid.
No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he will lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act.
He’ll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care and prescription drug costs.
Xavier is the key leader who will lead the key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people.
He will also be the first Latino leading HHS, a son from a working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico.
A true public servant who has dedicated his career in service to the people, and in service to this country that we all love.
To serve as the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team, I’m turning to a world-class manager and leader, Jeff Zients.
I’ve known Jeff for a long time — from the first and last days of the Obama-Biden White House, and throughout the campaign, and now the transition.
There’s no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country.
Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.
Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
He was there during the Great Recession, as we went from crisis to recovery to resurgence over eight years.
He was there to lead the team and help implement the Affordable Care Act — to get HealthCare.gov up and working at a critical moment. That was a monumental feat that required vision, patience, and fortitude and expertise.
Well-respected across the aisle, and around the country from business and labor leaders to entrepreneurs and educators.
Chairman of the Board of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the world’s top children’s hospitals.
Jeff knows how to build and lead a team. How to identify and solve problems.
And how to fully mobilize the federal government on behalf of the health, safety, and prosperity of the American people.
For Surgeon General of the United States, I nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy.
A renowned physician and research scientist. A trusted national leader on health care, and for me, a trusted advisor during this campaign and transition.
This will be his second time serving as America’s Doctor, having served in this role under President Obama.
During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face — from the opioid crisis to threats to America’s mental health.
I’ve asked Dr. Murthy to serve again as Surgeon General — but with expanded responsibilities.
He will be a key public voice on our COVID response, to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine.
But he will also be a key advisor to me and help lead an all-government approach to broader public health issues — mental health, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental determinants of health, and so much more.
Above all, he will help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities.
A son of Indian immigrants, who raised their children to always believe in the promise of America.
Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisors — and I’m grateful for his continued public service.
For Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I appoint Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
She is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at one of the country’s preeminent hospitals, Massachusetts General in Boston.
A distinguished professor at Harvard Medical School. A world-class physician.
One of the nation’s foremost experts on the testing, treatment, and eradication of viruses.
She has served on the front lines of the COVID crisis. She has conducted groundbreaking research on vaccine delivery, including how to reach underserved communities that are too often hit first and the hardest.
Dr. Walensky’s work was instrumental in helping the world mitigate one public health crisis — HIV/AIDS.
It inspired her as a young doctor to pursue her pioneering research in virus containment.
Now, she will bring her experience to bear against COVID-19.
She is uniquely qualified to restore morale and public trust.
She will marshal our finest scientists and public health experts at the CDC to turn the tide on the urgent crisis facing us today.
Because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, I concluded we need a COVID-19 Equity Task Force.
To chair it, I appoint Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. One of the country’s foremost experts on health care disparities.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine.
Founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center.
And co-chair of my COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board.
Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead our efforts to provide care to the communities most in need and most affected by the pandemic and most often overlooked.
She will ensure that fairness and equity are at the center of every part of our response.
This is a central front in our fight against the pandemic, and I am grateful Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead this charge.
And finally, as both head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and my chief medical advisor on COVID-19 — I am pleased that Dr. Tony Fauci will be a member of my core COVID team.
By now, he needs no introduction.
But he will have my gratitude when I’m president, the seventh president he will have served.
We’ve known each other a long time.
I’ve seen him take on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, and every infectious disease in between, over his nearly forty years of service to our country.
Trusted. A truth teller. A patriot.
Like every good doctor, he will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.
This is my core COVID and health care team.
Before January 20, we will be adding more leaders to oversee vaccine distribution, supply chain, testing, and other key functions.
To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve. And to your families, thank you. We could not do this without them, or without you.
And to the American people, I know we’ve all had a lot of sleepless nights this year.
So many of you staring at the ceiling late at night, worrying if you’re going to be okay.
All I can tell you is the truth.
We’re in a dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better. A vaccine may soon be available. But we need to level with each other.
It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of our country.
We will need to persuade enough Americans to take it.
It’s daunting, but I promise you that we will make progress starting on Day One.
But we didn’t get into this mess quickly, and it’ll take time to fix.
That’s the truth, and telling you the truth is what this team, Vice President-elect Harris, and I will always do.
This is one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced.
But I know that we will overcome — and heal — together as one nation.
To all of the front-line health professionals and first responders, the grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers, the educators, parents, and our children.
Thank you for everything you have done to get us through this crisis thus far.
We will never give up on you.
And we will never give up on our country.
We can do this, together.
To all those we have lost in this pandemic, and all those sick and suffering, our hearts go out to you.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops.
Remarks by Attorney General Xavier Becerra
Along with Carolina, my wife, and Natalia, Olivia, Clarisa, and Yvonne: greetings from California.
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I am honored and excited to join your team.
The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services has never been as vital or as urgent as it is today.
The COVID pandemic and its economic fallout have thrust families into crisis.
Too many Americans are sick or have lost loved ones.
Too many have lost their jobs, and with that, their healthcare and hope.
You have made it clear, Mr. President-elect, that to build back a prosperous America we need a healthy America. That, then, will be Job One for your team at HHS.
Fifty-five years ago, during another time of hardship, former Health Secretary — and fellow Californian — John Gardner said:
“What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”
Gardner went on to help President Lyndon Johnson build the Great Society — ushering in Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights that brought greater equity, greater opportunity, and greater hope to all Americans.
Now it is our turn to discover the breathtaking opportunities before us in the midst of hardship and pain.
It is our turn to build up and to back up our doctors and medical professionals, our hospitals and clinics, battling the coronavirus; our turn to restore faith and confidence in our leaders to deliver solutions that unite and heal us and inoculate us from fear; our turn to spur our brightest minds to launch the next generation of innovative medicines and cures.
And, it is our turn to build a nation where, as the President-elect so often says, health care is a right — not a privilege.
At HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, and keeping us healthy should be our calling card.
And we won’t forget that there is a second “H” in HHS…The “human” services — the work we do for our children, seniors, and disabled — they will stand tall in a Biden-Harris HHS.
Almost a year ago, on New Year’s Day, my father Manuel passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family. We got to celebrate Christmas together. And, when the end came, my dad knew we were there with him.
No one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation — the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America.
Manuel and Maria Teresa had only their health and hope when they arrived in California. A road construction worker with a sixth grade education and a clerical worker who arrived in her teens from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
They built a pretty good partnership that lasted 67 years. Along the way they sent four kids to college and the military.
They opened the door for me. I am enormously grateful to them.
Now, President-elect Biden has offered me a breathtaking opportunity to work with his team to shape our healthcare future.
I share the president-elect and vice-president-elect’s determination to rebuild unity and civility in America. We know it takes hard work. We know we must do it together. We know it will be key to building critical momentum and support for the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.
Those values and priorities will help us emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more just, and more equitable nation. Literally, there are millions of small business owners and tens of millions of workers who are counting on us.
I am proud to have this chance to implement the president-elect’s vision for a better America through the challenging assignments that are in store for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for this opportunity to serve.
Remarks by Dr. Vivek Murthy
Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for your trust and confidence.
When I left my role as Surgeon General, I never dreamed I would have an opportunity to serve again.
And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people are losing jobs and struggling with childcare, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic.
While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have what it takes to get the job done.
We have world class scientists.
We have courageous medical professionals who are risking their lives to care for the ill.
We have companies on the cusp of delivering vaccines, and we are blessed with generous, compassionate people all across America who are stepping up to help those who are struggling.
If we all work together, we will overcome this pandemic and return to our lives.
But COVID 19 is not the only health crisis we face — if anything, it has underscored a host of other epidemics that are devastating families and shortening lifespans: addiction, the opioid crisis, and spiraling mental health concerns; glaring racial disparities and high rates of diabetes and heart disease.
These challenges are both caused and exacerbated by broader societal issues — from the economic strains families face to the disconnection and loneliness many of us feel.
In my new, expanded role, I will work to bring a health perspective to our policies across government so that our schools, workplaces, and communities can be forces for strengthening our health and well being.
But the truth is that the best policies — and the best vaccines and treatments — will not heal our nation unless we overcome the fear, anxiety, anger, and distrust so many Americans are feeling right now.
So more than anything, I will come to this role as a doctor — one who learned the most important lessons about medicine not in medical school, but in the clinic my parents opened when they first came to America as immigrants decades ago.
As a child, I saw how they took the time not just to diagnose illnesses, but to ask about their patients’ families and lives, happily poring over photos of children and grandchildren taken from wallets, listening deeply to people’s stories and struggles, often running well over the appointment time.
They taught me that the best doctor is not an authority figure who writes prescriptions, but rather a partner in healing — someone who sees patients in their fullest humanity and empowers them to take control of their health.
That is the kind of doctor I have always tried to be.
And if confirmed, that is the approach I will take as I serve as America’s doctor.
I will dedicate myself to caring for every American, driven always by science and facts, by head and heart — and endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India can be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of the entire nation.
That is a testament to the promise of America — one that I will work to fulfill every day as Surgeon General.
Remarks by Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I’m honored by the trust you’ve placed in me to serve the American people at this critical moment.
I want to thank my amazing husband and our three wonderful sons for answering this call along with me.
As all doctors and public servants know, these jobs ask a great deal not only of us, but of our families.
The pandemic that brought me here today is actually one that struck America and the world more than thirty years ago.
Because my medical training happened to coincide with some of the most harrowing years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
As a medical student, I saw firsthand how the virus ravaged bodies and communities.
Inside the hospital, I witnessed many people lose strength and hope.
While outside the hospital, I witnessed those same patients — mostly gay men and members of vulnerable communities — be stigmatized and marginalized, by their nation and many of its leaders.
A scientific breakthrough came in 1995, when the FDA approved the first AIDS cocktail, and we saw the first glimmers of hope.
I’ve dedicated my career ever since to researching and treating infectious disease and to ending the HIV/AIDS crisis for good.
Now, a new virus is ravaging us.
It is striking hardest, once again, at the most vulnerable — the marginalized; the under-served.
Nearly 15 million Americans have been infected.
Nearly 285,000 of our loved ones are gone.
The pain is accelerating, our defenses have worn down.
We are losing life, and hope, at an alarming rate.
I never anticipated that I would take on a role helping lead our national response.
Government service was never part of my plans.
But every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don’t matter.
You run to the code.
And when a nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.
You run to take care of people; to stop the bleeding, to stabilize, to give them hope and a fighting chance to come back stronger.
That’s what doctors do.
And I’m honored to get to work with an administration that understands that leading with science is the only way to deliver breakthroughs, to deliver hope, and to bring our nation back to its full strength.
To the American people, and to each and every person at the CDC, I promise to work with you to harness the power of American science — to fight this virus and prevent unnecessary illness and deaths — so that we can all get back to our lives.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Remarks by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for the opportunity to serve the American people.
I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science and to centering equity in our response to the pandemic.
Not as a secondary concern, or as a box to check — but as a shared value, woven into all of the work we do and prioritized by every member of the Biden-Harris team.
I’m enormously thankful to my research team, my colleagues, to President Salovey and the leadership at Yale for supporting me in this work.
And I’m grateful to all of the researchers and advocates who’ve blazed the trail, whose work on health equity and racial justice too often went unbelieved or overlooked across the generations.
Most of all, I’m thankful to my family, to Jessie and our three children, for their unwavering support and humor.
And to my mother, and her mother, for modeling kindness, generosity, and courageous leadership through service.
I have wanted to be a doctor since I was six years old, and I am a proud general internal medicine physician today.
But as I grew up, I came to understand that there were deeper dimensions to health, beyond what I saw in the human biology textbooks I borrowed from my mother’s bookshelf.
I grew up on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A place where people too often died too young — from preventable conditions.
My own father had his first stroke in his forties and was left paralyzed.
I learned there was a term for what we were: an “underserved community” — marginalized by place and by race.
In my medical training, I saw countless patients whose conditions were shaped by factors having nothing to do with science — and everything to do with broader social inequities.
Now, the COVID-19 crisis has laid those inequities bare.
It is not a coincidence, or a matter of genetics, that more than 70 percent of African Americans, and more than 60 percent of Latinx Americans, personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19.
The same disparities ingrained in our economy, our housing system, our food system, our justice system, and so many other areas of our society have conspired, in this moment, to create a ‘grief gap’ that we cannot ignore.
It is our societal obligation to ensure equitable access to testing, treatments, and vaccines.
Equitable support for those who are hurting.
And equitable pathways to opportunity as we emerge from this crisis and rebuild — including for the most marginalized communities: the undocumented, the incarcerated, and the homeless.
I’m grateful for the chance to continue this work, to earn trust and find success through genuine partnerships with the people and communities who’ve been hit the hardest during — and before — this crisis.
On this team, you will be heard, you will be counted, and you will be valued.
Remarks by Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Pre-recorded Message
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, thank you so much for asking me to be part of this COVID response team.
I hope that you don’t mind that the reason that I am sending this video is because a close friend and colleague at the NIH, Dr. Harvey Alter, is receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine at the same time, and we wanted to attend the ceremony at the NIH to show our support.
Such an achievement is a reminder of the incredible public servants we have at the NIH and of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.
I believe — as you do — that in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science. And that a key piece of our ongoing work is communicating consistently with the American people.
Whether it’s maintaining social distancing and not congregating indoors; or the 100 day challenge you described on masking; or to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
These actions are bold, but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopen schools and business, and to eventually beat the pandemic.
I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities and to working with this team of world-class experts whom I have known for many years and deeply respect.
I have been through many public health crises before, but this is the toughest one we have ever faced as a nation.
The road ahead will not be easy. We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year.
But, as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together, as a nation.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this effort.
Remarks by Jeff Zients
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris — I am honored by your trust in me and humbled by the task at hand. And I am hopeful because of your leadership.
As it is for both of you, everything starts with family for me. And I am forever grateful for the love and support of my wife, our children, and our parents.
Mr. President-elect, we’ve known each other for a long time, and our relationship has been forged under immense pressure: the severity of the Great Recession; the challenge of implementing the Affordable Care Act; and the daily decisions a White House makes that affect the lives of millions of Americans.
You and President Obama knew how to build a team with the right diversity of backgrounds and views. A team to make progress on difficult situations and capture enormous opportunities.
That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my career.
I am not a doctor or public health expert. In fact, we’ve got the best ones in the world on this team.
But I know management and execution. And the key part of the role you’ve asked me to take on is the last part, “Coordinator.”
It’s about empowering experts, developing a culture of teamwork, and maintaining a focus on strategy and execution.
It’s knowing that leadership requires expertise, transparency, and prioritization. It also requires trust, truth, and integrity.
To the American people, that’s what this team will provide.
We will utilize the full capacity of the federal government to get this pandemic under control.
To harness and examine the data to expand testing. To deliver equipment and PPE to those on the frontlines. To provide resources for schools and businesses to operate safely. To address the racial disparities and inequities of this pandemic. To rejoin the global fight against COVID-19 — because no one is safe until everyone is safe.
And with our collective expertise, we will oversee the rollout of the vaccine which, as the president-elect said, will be one of the greatest operational challenges our country has ever faced.
And we will also pull the country together — across governments at the federal, state, and local levels, and across the private sector.
And as we begin this vital work, Mr. President-elect, I remember what you told me when we were implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Your message was: I know this is no small task; I know you and the team are feeling tremendous pressure to succeed; and we want and need the team to pull this off.
You then said, “I know you and the team can do this, but I need you to promise me one thing: That you will always, always, give it to us straight because we have to understand the challenge we’re facing. Because most of all, we are in this together. And together we can do this.”
President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the American people, this team will always tell it to you straight.
The work ahead will not be easy. But we know what needs to be done. And we will get it done, together.
Remarks by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
Congratulations Mr. President-elect on nominating and appointing this outstanding team to get this pandemic under control.
And thank you to these accomplished physicians, experts, and public servants for answering the call to serve the American people in this hour of need.
Over Thanksgiving, the president-elect and I called health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Just to thank them.
We wanted to express our gratitude — and our nation’s gratitude — for everything they have been doing. For every sacrifice they have made.
That day, I spoke with a registered nurse named Maureen in Pennsylvania and Talisa in Illinois.
They shared stories we’ve all heard.
We’ve all heard the stories about grandmothers and grandfathers, loved ones and friends spending their last moments alone.
We’ve all heard about nurses and physicians who are physically and mentally exhausted trying to keep up with ever-increasing caseloads. Those on the frontline who say to each other, it’s a matter of when, not if, they get the virus.
We’ve all heard about health care workers without the supplies and equipment they need to care for patients and save lives.
So, today, we have a message for Talisa, Maureen, and all Americans: help is on the way.
And it’s long overdue.
The scale of this pandemic is heartbreaking.
Almost 15 million cases. More than 2,800 deaths. In a single day.
And then, there’s the economic devastation. The lost jobs. The small businesses shuttered.
Not to mention what’s happening to our schools. The parents and teachers who are being stretched to their limits. And the toll it’s all taking on the mental health and well-being of our children who risk falling behind.
Opening our schools and economy safely and responsibly, getting this virus under control — all of it starts with listening to experts and leaders like these; Americans who reflect the very best of our nation.
They are top physicians, public health experts, and public servants.
And they are the team the American people need and deserve.
To make sure testing and treatment are free for everyone.
To make sure vaccines are safe, free, and equitably distributed.
To make sure we are better prepared for future pandemics and other health threats.
And to make sure quality, affordable health care is available to all.
From an early age, I saw the lifesaving work that our health care professionals provide, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
You see, my mother was a breast cancer researcher, and my sister and I spent many hours roaming the halls of the hospital where she worked.
It’s why I co-founded an auxiliary group to help patients at the county hospital in Oakland more than twenty years ago.
It’s why we need to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act.
And it’s why we have to listen to frontline health care workers like Maureen and Talisa.
During our conversation, Talisa said:
“We wouldn’t send our soldiers to battle without the gear they need. And we shouldn’t send our doctors and nurses to fight this pandemic without the gear they need.”
She is right.
And President-elect Biden and I — along with this world-class team — will make sure we are doing everything we can, to save lives and contain this pandemic once and for all.
Getting this virus under control is one of the defining challenges of our time.
And we will do what the American people have always done in the face of a great challenge.
We will stand together and defeat it.