Tag Archives: COVID-19

Biden Takes Aggressive, Immediate Action to Contain COVID-19 Crisis

The President Releases National COVID-19 Strategy and Signs Executive Actions to Expand Testing, Administer Vaccines, Advance Racial Equity, and Safely Reopen Schools and Businesses

 

President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness — a comprehensive, 198-page roadmap to guide America out of this pandemic. To jumpstart this strategy, he signed 10 Executive Orders and other directives to move quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing, administering vaccines, advancing racial equity, and safely reopening schools and businesses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, on his first full day in the White House, President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness — a comprehensive, 198-page roadmap to guide America out of this pandemic. To jumpstart this strategy, he signed 10 Executive Orders and other directives and took additional actions to move quickly to contain the COVID-19 crisis by expanding testing, administering vaccines, advancing racial equity, and safely reopening schools and businesses. These steps build on actions President Biden took yesterday to rejoin the World Health Organization, encourage masking, and to create his White House COVID-19 Response Team.
 
Here are more details on the steps that President Biden took today to immediately put his National Strategy into action.
 
IMMEDIATELY EXPAND EMERGENCY RELIEF AND EXERCISE THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT (DPA)
 
Manufacture and Deliver Supplies for Vaccination, Testing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 President Biden is taking immediate action to fill supply shortfalls for vaccination supplies, testing supplies, and PPE, and to ensure that these critical supplies equitably reach American communities, especially communities of color and other underserved communities hit hardest by the virus. The President will issue an Executive Order directing relevant agencies to exercise all appropriate authorities, including the DPA, to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in equipment and supplies needed for the COVID-19 response, beginning with action to increase the availability of critical supplies such as N95 masks, isolation gowns, nitrile gloves, PCR sample collection swabs, test reagents, pipette tips, laboratory analysis machines for PCR tests, high-absorbency foam swabs, nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen tests, rapid test kits, and all the necessary equipment and material to accelerate the manufacture, delivery, and administration of COVID-19 vaccine.
 
Reimburse States So They Can Deploy the Emergency Personnel and Supplies Americans Need
The President will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to increase federal reimbursement to states and Tribes from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, such as PPE, cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and the personnel and equipment needed to create vaccination centers. The order also includes restoring full reimbursement for eligible costs necessary to support safe school reopening through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. To help address the health and financial crises faced by Tribal Nations throughout our country and to advance Tribal sovereignty in our COVID-19 response, this Memorandum also expands FEMA resources for Tribal governments.
 
MITIGATE SPREAD THROUGH EXPANDING TESTING, TREATMENT, AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH WORKFORCE, AND ESTABLISHING CLEAR PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARDS
 
Establish the Pandemic Testing Board, Expand Testing, and Strengthen the Public Health Workforce
To control the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopen schools and businesses, the U.S. must have wide-spread testing. President Biden will issue an Executive Order that establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to bring the full force of the federal government’s expertise to expanding testing supply and increasing access to testing. The federal government will increase testing capacity by directing the use of the DPA and other authorities to procure more tests and expand manufacturing capacity where possible. The Executive Order will promote surge capacity for testing in the United States, onshore test manufacturing, expand the public health workforce, support COVID-19 screening for schools, and ensure that underserved communities, including communities of color, can equitably access tests.
 
Bolster Access to COVID-19 Treatments and Clinical Care
Effective treatments for COVID-19 are critical to saving lives. President Biden will sign an Executive Order directing studies, including large-scale randomized trials, to identify treatments for COVID-19 and to ensure that such studies address the needs of diverse populations. The Executive Order establishes a comprehensive, integrated, equitable, and coordinated preclinical drug discovery and development program to allow therapeutics to be evaluated and developed in response to pandemic threats. The Order also outlines steps to improve clinical care, provide assistance to long-term care facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with disabilities, increase health care workforce capacity, expand access to programs designed to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19, and support access to safe and effective COVID-19 therapies for those without coverage.
 
Improve Data to Combat COVID-19
Metrics and metric-driven public health guidance will be essential to controlling the pandemic. President Biden’s Executive Order will enhance the United States’ collection, production, sharing, and analysis of data to support an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery. The federal government will work with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments to aggregate and analyze data to track access to vaccines and testing, reopen schools and businesses, and address disparities in COVID-19 infections and health outcomes. And, the federal government will create publicly available dashboards with national and state-by-state level information, consistent with privacy protections,  on cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions to make real-time information available to policymakers and the public.
 
MOUNT A SAFE, EFFECTIVE, COMPREHENSIVE VACCINATION CAMPAIGN
 
Take Immediate Actions to Convert Vaccines into Vaccinations
The Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to ensure the public can get vaccinated safely, effectively and equitably. To meet the aggressive vaccination target of 100 million shots by the end of his first 100 days in office, President Biden will take immediate action to improve the vaccination program. Yesterday, he directed FEMA to begin standing up the first federally-supported community vaccination centers, with the goal of standing up 100 centers in the next month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also launch the federal pharmacy program — making vaccines available to communities in their local pharmacies beginning next month. And, he tasked the U.S. Public Health Services Commissioned Corps with expanding its workforce and preparing for deployment. Central to this effort will be expanded support and collaboration with state, local, Tribal and territorial governments, including the establishment of COVID Response Liaisons for each state — a model based on the response to Hurricane Sandy.
 
SAFELY REOPEN SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES, AND TRAVEL WHILE PROTECTING OUR WORKERS
 
Direct Action to Support Students & Safely Reopen Schools
President Biden will issue an Executive Order directing the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating for schools, child care providers, and institutions of higher education. Ensuring the safety of students and educators and adherence to science will be paramount. And, the Order directs the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect data around reopening and school closures so state and local officials have metrics to inform decision-making and can better understand the impact of closures on students from families with low-incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities and others.
 
The COVID-19 Response Team will work to ensure that testing materials, support for contact tracing, and vaccinations for teachers are equitably provided to support in-person care and learning. Finally, the order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.
 
This work will be supported by the Presidential Memorandum directing FEMA to offer reimbursement for eligible emergency supplies, such as PPE for schools and child care providers.
 
The Administration will engage with educators and their unions, students and their families, state and local education and public health officials, civil rights advocates, and other experts in the field. And, the Department of Education will work with HHS to ensure that guidance for schools is updated based on the latest science and any developments in the pandemic, including the spread of new coronavirus variants that may have a higher transmission rate. The Administration will always be honest about the challenges we face, directly addressing how and whether changes in the pandemic may impact the reopening of schools or the ability of schools to remain open.
 
Help Protect Workers from COVID-19
Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. President Biden will sign an Executive Order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. It also asks OSHA and Mine Safety and Health Administration to determine whether to establish emergency temporary standards that require employers to take steps to keep workers safe from COVID-19 and it directs OSHA to enforce worker health and safety requirements, targeting the worst violators. With the goal of protecting all workers from COVID-19, the order instructs agencies to explore ways to protect workers who are not always covered by OSHA standards, such as those who are self-employed.

Promote Safe Travel
To protect travelers from COVID-19, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to require mask-wearing in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses. For air travel, this Executive Order also requires international travelers to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the United States and to comply with CDC guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival. The Executive Order also calls for the consideration of additional public health measures in domestic travel and for consultation with foreign governments and other stakeholders to implement public health measures for safe travel, including at land and sea borders.
 
PROTECT THOSE MOST AT RISK AND ADDRESS INEQUITIES FACED BY COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND OTHER UNDERSERVED GROUPS
 
Advance Health Equity in the Nation’s COVID-19 Response
In order to address the disproportionate and severe impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations, President Biden will issue an Executive Order to ensure an equitable pandemic response and recovery. The order establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide specific recommendations to the President for allocating resources and funding in communities with inequities in COVID-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, and other considerations. The federal government will expand equity data collection; increase access to PPE, testing, therapies, and vaccines in underserved communities and high-risk settings; and assess and update pandemic response plans to ensure equity. The health workforce, including community-based workers, will be expanded to assist with contact tracing, vaccination, and linkage to care. Additionally, the Biden Administration will work with states, local jurisdictions, Tribal communities, and territories to address unmet basic needs, including food, housing, and childcare, for individuals and families affected by COVID-19.
 
RESTORE U.S. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP AND BUILD BETTER PREPAREDNESS
 
Advance U.S. Global Leadership, Support the Health and Humanitarian Response to COVID-19, and Protect Against Future Biological Threats
America’s withdrawal from the world stage and retreat from the World Health Organization has impeded progress on the global COVID-19 response and left the United States and the world more vulnerable to future pandemics. Yesterday, President Biden signed letters to the United Nations Secretary General and World Health Organization Director General to cease America’s withdrawal from the organization and to outline U.S. intent to work constructively with the WHO to strengthen and reform it.
Today, President Biden will sign a Presidential Directive to restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda. This directive restores U.S. leadership and seeks to support the international health and humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts, global health security and diplomacy, and better biopreparedness and resilience for emerging and future biological threats.
 
RACIAL EQUITY IMPACT
 
The COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on and exacerbated the persistent racial inequities in our healthcare system and our economy. Americans of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates, while workers of color disproportionately put themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 on the frontline of this crisis to keep our country running. Changing the course of the COVID-19 crisis requires mobilizing an equitable response across the whole of our government. The new  COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will intensely focus on these issues. The actions to  expand the availability of testing and vaccines in communities of color, and other underserved communities, ensure that new clinical treatments are developed to serve diverse Americans, and safely reopen our schools so that children who are facing disproportionately high risks of learning loss can get back into the classroom. These actions will also support Native communities and Tribal governments to address the health and economic crises in Indian country.
 
WORKER IMPACT
 
These executive actions will help keep millions of workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. They direct agencies to provide new guidance so that employers and schools know what they need to do to keep workers safe. They’ll increase access to personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across the country. They’ll help ensure more people are wearing masks when they travel, immediately providing more protection to many airline workers, bus drivers, and other transportation workers, and providing Americans safe ways to travel to work.
 
With the support of funding from the President’s American Rescue Package, the President’s plan to safely reopen schools will help students engage in in-person learning, parents return to work and prevent more educators from being laid off, as we combat the virus and make schools safe for students and educators again.
 
These measures will help keep workers safe and healthy, get more Americans back to work, and ultimately reduce the spread of the virus.

See: BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IMPLEMENTS A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE, PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS

Biden Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plan: More Sites, More Vaccinators, More Cooperation Between Fed, Local Health

State and local public health officials have been frustrated by limited supply and vaccinators even as they try to expand COVID-19 vaccination sites. President-Elect Joe Biden announced his detailed plan to dramatically increase vaccinations, with a goal of 100 million in his first 100 days © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With a promise to “manage the hell out of this thing,” President-Elect Joe Biden laid out a cogent, detailed, realistic plan to “efficiently and equitably vaccinate” the population, with a pledge to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days.

Biden plans to use a “whole of government,”  “whole of society” approach, enlisting FEMA, the Defense Production Act, the National Guard, to set up federally manned and funded sites including mobile clinics to complement local communities, and increase supply of vaccines and vaccinators.

Our plan is as clear as it is bold:

“Get more people vaccinated for free.

“Create more places for them to get vaccinated.

“Mobilize more medical teams to get shots into peoples’ arms.

“Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.

“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country.

“You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation.”

Biden continued
:

“For God’s sake, wear a mask for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country,” he declared in remarks from Wilmington on January 15. “These are life and death matters. We need you to stick with the hand washing, social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings with people outside your household.

“We’ll be a partner to the states and cities, so where things are working, we’ll help do more of the good work, and where things can improve, we’ll bring more resources to bear to get folks tested and vaccinated.

“We will work closely with nonprofits and the private sector who we know all want to partner with us in this effort. 

“The more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us.

“And the sooner we can build our economy back better, and get back to our lives and loved ones.

“As we’ve seen during this pandemic, we can’t solve our problems as a divided nation.

“The only way we come through this is together as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.

“Vice-President-elect Harris and I ran on that vision. And starting noon on Wednesday, that is exactly how we are going to govern and ask for your help.”

Here’s Biden’s plan:

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse by the day — more people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, the death rate is up almost 20 percent, and we’re nearing 400,000 deaths total. At the same time, there is a new, more contagious strain spreading across the country and we are woefully behind on vaccinating the U.S. population. 

President-elect Biden will confront this historic challenge with the full strength of the federal government — working closely with local communities already in the trenches. He will lead an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort that mobilizes every resource available — across the public and private sectors. It will take every American doing their part. 

As we move forward to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, we will not leave anyone behind. Communities across the country are counting on it. The health and economic security of our nation depend on it.

Today, the president-elect outlined key highlights of his plan to efficiently and equitably vaccinate the U.S. population. This includes taking action to: 

Get more people vaccinated

  • Encourage states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers. The process of establishing priority groups was driven by science, but the implementation has been too rigid and confusing. We now see doses of vaccines sitting in freezers unused while people who want the vaccine cannot get it. President-elect Biden’s plan encourages states to open up eligibility beyond healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff, to include frontline essential workers like teachers, first responders, grocery store employees, and anyone who is 65 and older. It won’t mean that everyone in these groups will get vaccinated immediately, as supply is not where it needs to be. But it will mean that as vaccines become available, they will reach more people who need them. For states with the capacity and supply to further expand, we encourage that as well. The federal government will continue to look to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) framework for an equitable, effective vaccination program.
  • Ensure equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those in hard-to-reach, marginalized communities. We will ensure that there is equity in the vaccination process by using data to target resources to hard-hit communities, ensuring no out-of-pocket costs for vaccinations, and equitable access to vaccines in marginalized and medically-underserved communities. Partnerships with state, local and community-based organizations and trusted health care providers, like community health centers, will be central to this effort.

Create more vaccination sites

  • Stand up new, federally-supported community vaccination centers across the country. Getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible will require close coordination between the federal government and all states and territories. Knowing that not all states and jurisdictions have the resources to scale vaccinations at the pace this crisis demands, the Biden-Harris administration will leverage federal resources and emergency contracting authorities to launch new vaccination sites and to expand state and local efforts across the country. With the support of Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), these sites will mobilize thousands of clinical and non-clinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams. The program will be scaled based on what is working best on the ground for state and local partners, and the communities they serve. 
  • Fully reimburse state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccinations and provide additional FEMA assistance. Many states are planning to use their National Guard to support vaccine distribution efforts, including to support critical transportation and logistics functions. To further support states, President-elect Biden’s plan fully reimburses states for the use of the National Guard and provides 100% cost match for state and local emergency costs through FEMA.
  • Launch mobile vaccination clinics and provider partnerships to reach underserved urban areas and rural communities. President-elect Biden will deploy mobile vaccination clinics in the most hard-to-reach communities and to support those who face challenges accessing vaccination sites, including individuals who live in underserved urban and rural areas. The federal government will partner with states and local providers, including primary care providers, to ensure that they have the resources needed to help get vaccines to the communities they serve. The federal government will launch targeted programs to engage community health centers, rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and tribal health services to ensure that we can meet the needs of all communities. 
  • Make vaccines available in pharmacies. Millions of Americans turn to their local pharmacies every day for their medicines, flu shots, and much more. Nearly 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy. President-elect Biden will quickly jumpstart efforts to increase capacity at chain and independent pharmacies across the country to get Americans vaccinated. 
  • Launch a new partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 30 million patients each year — one in 11 people nationwide. Many are people of color and many live in rural communities. FQHC patients are often individuals struggling to make ends meet. Given the critical role that these providers play in their communities, President-elect Biden will launch a new program to ensure that FQHCs can directly access vaccine supply where needed. At the same time, the administration will encourage jurisdictions to engage and work closely with health centers in their community vaccination planning. And to ensure that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs, President-elect Biden has called on Congress to provide additional funds to support community health centers, and HHS will launch a new program to provide guidance, technical assistance, and other resources to prepare and engage these providers nationwide. 
  • Launch new models to serve high-risk individuals. The administration will make programs available for high-risk congregate settings, including homeless shelters, jails, and institutions that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Increase supply and get it out the door as quickly as possible

  • Ensure a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing. To help people get vaccinated more quickly, the president-elect will maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country, including using the Defense Production Act. This effort will prioritize supplies that could cause bottlenecks, including glass vials, stoppers, syringes, needles, and the “fill and finish” capacity to package vaccine into vials.
  • Be a reliable partner for states by providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery. To effectively plan and scale distribution, states and localities rely on both advanced understanding of their allocations and timely delivery of their ordered doses. Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the federal government will provide regular projections of the allocations states and localities will receive. The federal government will build on the operational plans in place to ensure the effective distribution, storage, and transit of vaccines to states, including support for maintaining or augmenting the vaccine-specific required cold chain. The federal government will also fully leverage the Defense Production Act to fill any distribution gaps, including with respect to any needed refrigeration, transportation, or storage facilities. 
  • Increase vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule. President-elect Biden’s plan will release the vast majority of the vaccines when they are available, so more people can get vaccinated quickly, while still retaining a small reserve for any unforeseen shortages or delays. To continue ensuring second-dose availability on the timeline recommended by the FDA, the Biden-Harris administration will closely monitor development, production and release of vaccines, and use the DPA as needed to ensure adequate supply for second doses on the timeline recommended by the FDA. 

Mobilize more personnel to get shots in arms. 

  • Surge the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort. A diverse, community-based public health workforce is essential to an effective vaccination program. President-elect Biden will address workforce needs by taking steps to allow additional qualified professionals to administer vaccines and strongly encourage states to use their flexibility fully to surge their workforce, including by expanding scope of practice laws and waiving licensing requirements as appropriate. The federal government, in partnership with states, will provide appropriate training, including thorough use of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The president-elect will also act swiftly to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals, including retired medical professionals, that are not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so with appropriate training in order to expand the number of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine. 
  • Mobilize a public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response. President-elect Biden has asked Congress to make an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce, funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the country’s community health roles. These individuals will be hired to work in their local communities to perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.

Ensure the American people have the information and confidence they need to get vaccinated 

  • Launch a federally led, locally focused public education campaign. The federal government will build public trust through increased transparency, communication around progress and setbacks, and a public education campaign that addresses vaccine hesitancy and is tailored to meet the needs of local communities. The campaign will work to elevate trusted local voices and outline the historic efforts to deliver a safe and effective vaccine as part of a national strategy for beating COVID-19.

Hotel Industry Offers to Provide 50,000 Sites for Public Health Officials to Administer COVID-19 Vaccine


America’s hotel industry is offering to provide sites to administer the COVID-19 vaccine © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

America’s hotel industry is offering to provide up to 50,000 sites to assist in the rapid administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, in partnership with public health departments.

In a letter to the Biden Transition Team, Chip Rogers, President and CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association, writes, “America’s hotels stand ready to work alongside America’s governors as states continue to move forward in administrating the COVID-19 vaccine. By quickly mobilizing an existing network of sites, hotels can help strengthen the delivery and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in communities across the country to better streamline and build on current state efforts.”

The AHLA has a “Hospitality for Hope” initiative which has infrastructure in place to support public health agencies and private sector partners through a network of 20,000 hotels that could be used as locations to administer the vaccine.

In the letter, which is also sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Chair, National Governors Association;
Governor Asa Hutchinson, Vice Chair National Governors Association; Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Alex Azar, Secretary of Health & Human Services; and the US Conference of Mayors, he writes:

“As you know, administering the vaccine on a national level will be a significant undertaking requiring innovative solutions and collaboration. To aide in the distribution, the hotel industry is asking that hotels be considered as an option for vaccine administration sites in partnership with public health departments. 

“Hotels have existing infrastructure and operational capabilities to serve as vaccine administration sites and capacity to assist. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) under its “Hospitality for Hope” initiative has the infrastructure in place to support public health agencies and private sector partners through a network of more than 20,000 hotels which could be quickly ready serve as locations to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this program, the hotel industry has already successfully partnered with federal and local governments to provide assistance to those in need, including frontline and emergency workers as well as state and municipal public health departments. 

“The hotel industry is ready to step in and assist our community and alleviate the current burdens on our health systems in a time of national need and has the following capabilities:

  • Geographic reach: With more than 50,000 hotels in every state, including properties located in cities, suburbs, and rural communities, hotels have the geographic reach to support a wide distribution of the vaccine.
  • Available Capacity and Operate 24/7: Hotels have private rooms, meeting rooms, conference and ball rooms as well as outside areas, hotels are equipped for 24-hour operations to allow for round-the-clock vaccination administration. This will also ensure there is adequate space to maintain physical distancing, capacity limits and other safety protocols. Further, as hotels are currently running at less than 50 percent occupancy rates, families or individuals who might be traveling to receive the vaccine will have access to comfortable and flexible lodging options should they need
  • Comprehensive cleanliness protocols: The industry has also adopted AHLA’s Safe Stay, an enhanced cleaning initiative that builds on the hotel industry’s long-standing commitment and operations procedures to ensure the safety of guests during the ongoing public health crisis.
  • Infrastructure: Hotels also offer ample parking and are often accessible from major transportation networks, including highways and public transportation routes. Hotels also have outdoor capabilities that can provide safe, weather-proof vaccination services where parking lots could be utilized for vaccination administration, similar to drive-thru testing sites.
  • Refrigeration Capabilities: With many hotels being temperature controlled and the majority of hotels having refrigeration capabilities to store vaccines, issues concerning vaccine storage will be limited or can be quickly addressed to meet the requirements necessary for safe and effective vaccine storage.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our industry has been on the frontlines to support national public health and safety priorities. AHLA launched the “Hospitality for Hope” initiative in early 2020, identifying more than 20,000 hotels willing to provide temporary housing for emergency and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The initiative identified a total combined 2.3 million rooms located in close proximity to established healthcare facilities for frontline workers to use as they worked around the clock to save lives and provide lodging for those exposed to COVID to quarantine safely. Additionally, as part of this effort, hotels are supporting the national guard by providing lodging to those who Washington D.C. and surrounding region to provide additional security around the inauguration. 

“With the next phases of vaccination distribution underway, hotels have the unique capability to help provide additional locations to assist with the administration of the vaccine. As an industry, we have always stepped up to help our neighbors and communities in a time of need, including early-on in the pandemic through Hospitality for Hope. The industry looks forward to continuing this work in partnership with the public and private sector to support this next phase of recovery.”

Biden Unveils His ‘American Rescue Plan’ to Defeat Coronavirus Pandemic, Bring Economic Relief

President-Elect Joe Biden described the first part of his two-pronged plan of Rescue and Recovery from the surging coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation. “A two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crises we face and to a better, stronger, more secure America…the first step — the American Rescue Plan — that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden described the first part of his two-pronged plan of Rescue and Recovery from the surging coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation. In the first of two speeches, he detailed his Rescue Plan to speed up distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and economic relief to families, states and localities.

Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, on January 14: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Good evening, my fellow Americans.

It’s been three hundred and forty-three days since the virus that has ravaged our nation tragically claimed its first life.

On February 6, 2020, Patricia Dowd took her last breath at home, under the California sun of Santa Clara. She was 57 years old. A beloved wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She never knew she had the virus, at a time when most folks never even heard about the virus. But just like that, she was gone.

Almost exactly one year later, nearly 400,000 of our fellow Americans have met the same cruel fate. Countless families and friends left behind, with unrelenting grief and guilt, anger and frustration. And the emptiness felt by the loss of life is compounded by the loss of our way of life.

During this pandemic, millions of Americans — through no fault of their own — have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck.

Millions of Americans who never thought they’d be out of work are facing eviction or waiting hours in their car to feed their families as they drive up to a food bank.

Millions who have kept their job but have seen their hours and paycheck reduced are barely hanging on as well.

That is happening today in the United States of America. 

Just as we are in the midst of a dark winter of this pandemic as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spike at record levels, there is real pain overwhelming the real economy. The one where people rely on their paycheck — not their investments — to pay their bills, their meals, and their children’s needs. 

You won’t see this pain if your score card is how things are going on Wall Street. But you will see it very clearly if you examine what the twin crises of the pandemic and the sinking economy have laid bare. 

The growing divide between those few people at the very top who are doing quite well in this economy — and the rest of America.

Just since this pandemic began, the wealth of the top 1% has grown by roughly $1.5 trillion since the end of last year — four times the amount for the entire bottom 50%.

Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance. 

Some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors. 

It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of a once-in-several generation economic crisis within a once-in-several generation public health crisis.

A crisis of deep human suffering in plain sight.

And there is no time to wait.

We have to act and act now.

This is what the economists are telling us.

More importantly, it is what the values we hold in our hearts as Americans are telling us.

A growing chorus of top economists agree that, in this moment of crisis, with interest rates at historic lows, we cannot afford inaction.

It’s not just that smart fiscal investments, including deficit spending, are more urgent than ever. It’s that the return on these investments — in jobs, in racial equity — will prevent long-term economic damage and the benefits will far surpass the costs.

A growing number of top economists has shown even our debt situation will be more stable — not less stable — if we seize this moment with vision and purpose.

And so, tonight, I’d like to talk to you about our way forward. A two-step plan of rescue and recovery. A two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crises we face and to a better, stronger, more secure America.

Tonight, I’ll lay out the first step — the American Rescue Plan — that will tackle the pandemic and get direct financial assistance and relief to Americans who need it the most. 

Next month, in my first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, I will lay out the second step, my Build Back Better Recovery Plan. It will make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy. Investments in the caregiving economy and in skills and training needed by our workers to compete and win the global economy of the future.

Moody’s — an independent Wall Street firm — said this approach would create more than 18 million jobs.

Our rescue and recovery plan is the path forward with a seriousness of purpose, a clear plan with transparency and accountability with a call for unity that is equally necessary.

Unity is not a pie-in-the-sky dream, it is a practical step to getting things done.

As I said when it passed in December, the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package was an important first step. I am grateful for the Democratic, Republican, and Independent members of Congress who came together to get it done.

But as I said at the time, it’s just a down-payment. We need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move fast.

Our rescue plan starts aggressively in order to speed up our national COVID-19 response.

The vaccines offer so much hope. We are grateful to the scientists and researchers, and everyone who participated in the clinical trials. We are also grateful for the rigorous review and testing that’s led to millions of people around the world already being vaccinated safely.

But, the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far.

Tomorrow, I will lay out our vaccination plan to correct course and meet our goal of 100 million shots by the end of our first 100 days.

This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation.

We will move Heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in peoples’ arms, and to increase vaccine supply and get it out the door as fast as possible.

We will also do everything we can to keep our educators and students safe and to safely open a majority of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days. 

We can do it, if we give school districts, communities, and states the clear guidance they need as well as the resources they will need that they can not afford right now because of the economic crisis we are in. That means more testing and transportation, additional cleaning and sanitizing services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems in the schools. 

And we need to make sure that workers who have COVID-19 symptoms and are quarantined, and those who need to take care of family members with COVID-19 symptoms should be able to stay home from work and still get paid.

This will reduce spread of the virus and make sure workers get the support they need.

But they need about $400 billion in funding from Congress to make all of this happen. 

It’s a lot, but I’m convinced we are ready to get this done. 

The very health of our nation is at stake.

Our rescue plan also includes immediate relief for Americans hardest hit and most in need.

We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in direct relief to people who need it the most. 

$600 is simply not enough if you still have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table.

Even for those who have kept their jobs these checks are really important. 

You see, if you are an American worker making $40,000 a year with less than $400 in savings, maybe you’ve lost hours, or maybe you’re doing fewer shifts driving a truck, or caring for kids, or the elderly.

You’re out there putting your life on the line to work during this pandemic and worried every week that you’ll get sick, lose your job, or worse. 

$2,000 is going to go a long way to ease that pain.

We will also provide more peace of mind for struggling families by extending unemployment insurance benefits for millions of workers.  

That means that the 18 million Americans currently relying on unemployment benefits while they look for work can count on these checks continuing to be there. Plus, there will be a $400 per week supplement to help make ends meet.

This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent, and other basic needs. That helps our whole economy grow. 

We will also tackle the growing hunger crisis in America.

As I speak, and as Vice President-elect Harris has spoken about this many times, 1 in 7 households in America — more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households in America – report that they do not have enough food to eat. 

This includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children. 

It’s wrong. It’s tragic. It’s unacceptable.

We will extend emergency nutrition assistance for 43 million children and families enrolled in the SNAP program through the rest of this year.

And we will help hard-hit restaurants prepare meals for the hungry and provide food for families who need it. 

We will also invest $3 billion in making sure mothers and their young children have the nutrition they need.

This would not only meet our moral obligation we have to one another, but it would also spur our economy and get restaurant workers back on the job.

As we work to keep people from going hungry, we will also work to keep a roof over their heads to stem the growing housing crisis in America. 

Approximately 14 million Americans have fallen behind on rent, many at risk of eviction.

If we don’t act now there will be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as the pandemic rages on. This would overwhelm emergency shelters and increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and can’t socially distance.

Next week we will take action to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. This would provide more than 25 million Americans greater stability instead of living on the edge every single month. 

And, I am asking Congress to do its part by funding rental assistance for 14 million hard-hit families and tenants. It will also be a bridge to economic recovery for countless mom and pop landlords.

These crises are straining the budgets of states, cities, and tribal communities that are forced to consider layoffs and service reductions. It means the people putting their lives at risk are the very people now at risk of losing their jobs. 

Police officers. Firefighters. All first responders. Nurses. Educators. Over the last year, more than 600,000 education jobs have been lost in our cities and towns. 

Our rescue plan will provide emergency funding to keep these essential workers on the job and maintain essential services. It will ensure that vaccines are administered and schools can re-open.

Vice President-elect Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties on a regular basis. We are ready to work with them to help get the relief they need.

Our rescue plan will also help small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth and economy as a whole. They are the glue that holds communities together.

But they are hurting badly, and they account for nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce.

Our rescue plan will provide flexible grants to help the hardest hit small businesses survive the pandemic. And low-cost capital to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create and maintain jobs, plus provide the essential goods and services that communities depend on.

Last week, I laid out how we will make sure our emergency small business relief is distributed swiftly and equitably. 

It will focus on small businesses on Main Street. It will focus on minority-owned small businesses and women-owned small businesses finally having equal access to the resources they need to reopen and rebuild. And, we will be responsible with taxpayer dollars ensuring accountability that reduces waste, fraud, or abuse like we did with the Recovery Act during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Direct cash payments. Extended unemployment insurance. Rent relief. Food assistance. Keeping essential frontline workers on the job. Aid to small businesses.

These are key elements of the American Rescue Plan that would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. 

That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty. 

Our plan would reduce poverty in the Black community by one-third. It would reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost forty percent. 

And it includes much more, like an increase of the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. No one working 40 hours a week should still be below the poverty line. 

It includes access to affordable child care that will enable parents, particularly women, to get back to work.

I look forward to working with members of Congress from both parties to move quickly to get the American Rescue Plan to the American people.

And then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to my Build Back Better Recovery Plan that I will call for next month to generate even more economic growth.

American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War II. It will be so again. Imagine the future Made in America in all of America and all by Americans. We will use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America. We will buy American products and support millions of American manufacturing jobs and enhance our competitive strength in an increasingly competitive world.

Imagine historic investments in Research & Development to sharpen America’s innovative edge in markets where global leadership is up for grabs, markets like battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and clean energy.

Imagine confronting the climate crisis with American jobs and ingenuity leading the world.

It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start building it
. Millions of good-paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world.

And, imagine millions of jobs in our caregiving economy to ease the financial burden of caring for young children and aging loved ones. Let’s make sure our caregivers, mostly women, women of color, and immigrants, have the pay and dignity they deserve.

We can do these bold, practical things now. 

I know what I just described will not come cheaply. But failing to do so will cost us dearly. But the consensus among leading economists is we simply cannot afford not to do it. 

Independent, respected institutions from around the world from the Federal Reserve to the International Monetary Fund have underscored the urgency. Even Wall Street firms have reinforced the logic. 

If we invest now, boldly, smartly, and with an unwavering focus on American workers and families we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequity, and put our nation’s long term finances on a more sustainable course. 

And where we are making permanent investments as I said on the campaign, we will pay for them by making sure that everyone pays their fair share in taxes.


We can do it without punishing anyone by closing tax loopholes for companies that ship American jobs overseas or that allow American companies to pay zero in federal income taxes.

Asking everyone to pay their fair share so we can make permanent investments to rescue and rebuild America is the right thing for our economy, it’s the fair thing and decent thing to do.    

But we not only have an economic imperative to act now, we have a moral obligation.

In this pandemic, in America, we cannot let people go hungry.

We cannot let people get evicted.

We cannot watch nurses and educators and others lose their jobs.

We must act now and decisively.

My fellow Americans, the decisions we make in the next few weeks and months will determine whether we thrive in a way that benefits all Americans, or whether we stay stuck in a place where those at the top do great while economic growth for most everyone else is just a spectator sport — where America’s prospects dim, not brighten.

They will determine whether we reassert American leadership and out-compete our competitors in the global economy or whether we watch them catch up and pass us by.

Together I know we will choose a path that includes all Americans so we own the 21st Century.

But even with all of these bold steps,it will take time to get where we need to be. There will be stumbles. But I will always be honest with you about both the progress we’re making and the setbacks meet.

Here’s the deal — the more people we vaccinate, and the faster we do it, the sooner we can save lives put this pandemic behind us and get back to our lives and loved ones.

The sooner we can rescue and rebuild our economy.

I know it’s been nearly a year that’s tested us beyond measure.

For all of you who have lost someone my heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to stare at the empty chair. For those who have fallen on hard times, I know you can never get back what you lost.

But as your president, I know that every day matters, and every person matters.

From the very first to the nearly 400,000 lost American souls and counting, and to the millions of you just looking for a fighting chance in this economy: I will not forget what you’re going through. We understand what you’re going through.

We will not give up.  

We will come back together.

While we didn’t get into all of this overnight, we won’t get out of it overnight, and we can’t do it as a divided nation. The only way we come through this is together as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.

And when we do, there is nothing beyond our capacity.

Out of all the peril of this moment I want you to know, I see all the promise as well.

I remain as optimistic about America as I have ever been.

Come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter.

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Biden Outlines Forceful Plan to Eradicate COVID-19

President-Elect Joe Biden, in remarks that included a rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to achieve even a fraction (2 million) of the 20 million vaccinations promised by the end of 2020, outlined five things Americans need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and his administration’s plans to get COVID-19 under control © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden, in remarks that included a rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to achieve even a fraction (2 million) of the 20 million vaccinations promised by the end of 2020, outlined five things Americans need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and his administration’s plans to get COVID-19 under control:

1. Things are going to get worse before they get better, with nation on track to hit 400,000 dead by Inauguration Day, but tens of thousands of lives can be saved if people are vigilant.

2. “The Trump administration plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.”

3. The Biden-Harris administration will spare no effort to provide vaccines, free, and stand up distribution system to deliver 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, to “
make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.”  

4. Will use the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of the materials needed for the vaccine. And massive public education campaign to show vaccines are safe – and equitable distribution

5. Remain vigilant. Will ask Americans to wear mask for first 100 days of his presidency, as part of his 100-day challenge; get Congress to fund COVID action plan for testing, PPE, vaccination program and so that K-8 schools can open safely

Here is a highlighted transcript of Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, December 29, from Wilmington, Delaware:

Good afternoon. 

Vice President-elect Harris and I just received a briefing on COVID-19 by our team of experts.

As we end one of the most difficult years as a nation, I am optimistic about the future.

The vaccines that have been discovered and developed give us enormous hope. 

Our economy is poised to come back, and come alive.

And I can see a return to normalcy in the next year. 

I also see the incredible opportunities for our nation in the years ahead in job creation, in clean energy, racial equality, and so much more. 

But I need to be honest. 

The next few weeks and months are going to be a very tough period of time for our nation — maybe the toughest of the entire pandemic. 

I know that’s hard to hear. But it’s the truth. 

So, we need to steel our spines for what’s ahead. 

We need to follow even more closely the recommendations to slow the spread of the virus. 

And each of us needs to do what we can to protect ourselves, our families, and our fellow Americans.

We are going to get through this. 

Brighter days are coming. 

But it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done.

 So today, I want to clear about five things every American should know about our efforts to contain COVID-19 and where the vaccine stands today

First — things will get worse before they get better.

In September, we passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths.

At the time, I warned that we’d hit 400,000 deaths before the end of the Trump Administration in January. 

Critics said I was being too alarmist and negative.

But as I’ve said all along, I will tell it like it is when it comes to COVID. 

And the reality is, it looks like we’ll hit that grim milestone.  

We just crossed 330,000 deaths. 

We’re averaging a daily death rate of nearly 2,200 people — which means we will lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come.

Hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity.

And that’s data before we see the impact of cases coming from the holidays.

People getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks, and those who perish from the disease die weeks after exposure. 

So we have to anticipate that infections over the holidays will produce soaring case counts in January and a soaring death toll into February. 

Turning this around will take time. And we might not see improvement until well into March, as it will take time for our COVID response plan to begin to produce visible progress.

Second, the Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind. 

We are grateful to the companies, doctors, scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants, and Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines quickly.

But as I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should.  

A few weeks ago the Trump Administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December.

With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far.  

At the pace the vaccination program is moving now, it would take years, not months,  to vaccinate the American people. 

Which brings me to the third thing every American should know: the Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to make sure people are getting vaccinated. 

I’ve laid out three challenges in our first 100 days.

One of them is ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of our first 100 days.

If Congress provides the funding, we would be able to meet this incredible goal.

It would take ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day.   

But even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the country vaccinated.   

I have directed my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort — with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track.  

We will find ways to boost the pace of vaccinations.  

But as Dr. Fauci and others have stated these past few days, this will all take more time than anyone would like – and more time than the promises from the Trump administration has suggested.

This will be the greatest operational challenge we have ever faced as a nation. 

We will get it done.

But it’s going to take a vast new effort that is not yet underway.

And that gets to the fourth thing you should know: I will move Heaven and Earth to get us going in the right direction.

I will use my power under the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed for the vaccine.

Vice President-elect Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties to speed up the distribution of the vaccine across the nation.

We are planning a whole-of-government effort.  

We will work to set-up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.

We also know there is vaccine hesitancy in many communities, especially in Black, Latino, and Native American communities who have not always been treated with the dignity and honesty they deserve by the federal government and the scientific community throughout our history. 

That’s why we will launch a massive public education campaign to increase vaccine acceptance.

We will do everything we can to show the vaccines are safe and critically important for one’s own health and that of their family and community.

That means we will also make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.  

And we’re going to ensure vaccinations are free of charge. 

Fifth — while the pandemic rages on and as we increase the supply, distribution, and administration of the vaccine, we must remain vigilant.

As part of our 100-day challenge, I’ll be asking the American people to wear a mask for the first 100 days of my administration. 

Not as a political statement, but as a patriotic duty. 

Our Administration will require masks where we can for federal workers, in federal facilities, and on interstate travel like planes and trains. 

And we’ve been working directly with county officials, mayors, and governors to implement mask mandates in their towns, cities, and states. 

Masking has been a divisive issue in this country.  

But COVID is a killer in red states and blue states alike.

So — I encourage all of you — wear a mask. 

Encourage your family and friends to do the same.

It’s one of the easiest things we can do that will make a huge difference to save lives.

Another 100-day challenge is opening most of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days in the spring. 

But we can only do that if Congress provides the necessary funding so we can get schools, districts, communities, and states the resources they need for so many things that aren’t in their already tight budgets.

They need funding for testing to help reopen schools.

More funding for transportation so students can maintain social distancing on buses.

They need it for school buildings, for additional cleaning services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems.

This will require an additional tens of billions of dollars to get it done.

And Congress also needs to fund and provide more protective equipment for frontline health care workers who are still reusing masks and gowns.

And we need to scale up testing so anyone who needs one can get one.

After 10 months of the pandemic, we still don’t have enough testing.

That’s a travesty.

All of this — vaccinations, testing, protective gear — will require more funding from Congress, more than was just approved.  

That is why I will propose a COVID action package early next year and challenge Congress to act on it quickly.

My ability to change the direction of the pandemic starts in three weeks.

But with thousands dying every day between now and then, let me conclude by discussing what needs to happen now.

I congratulate the bipartisan majority on passing and President Trump on signing the COVID relief bill. 

It is a step in the right direction. 

It will help people in need.

It will pay for some, but far from all of what we need to fix the COVID response.  

It’s a down payment.

But now, with that done — I hope that the President will also clearly and unambiguously promote mask wearing.

I give former Governor Chris Christie credit. He and I disagree on most things.

But I’m thankful he’s now encouraging people to do the right thing and wear a mask for themselves, their loved ones, and their country.

I hope President Trump listens to him. 

He can do it, too. 

It would make a huge difference.

And I hope that the President will clearly and unambiguously urge all Americans to take the vaccine once it’s available.

I took it to instill public confidence in the vaccine.

Vice President-elect Harris took hers today to do the same.

When his doctors recommend it, President Trump should take it and instill that same degree of confidence.

And let me also say this to the American people: we can save 60,000-100,000 lives in the weeks and months ahead if we step up together.

Wear a mask. Stay socially distanced. Wash our hands. Avoid large indoor gatherings.

I know that these are often not easy asks. 

You’re already making tremendous sacrifices every single day. 

It’s hard on your lives, on your livelihoods, and on your kids and families. 

It’s not small what’s being asked of you.  

But we are in it together. 

And the actions we take now will help us contain the pandemic and get us back to our lives and loved ones.

So, to the American people, I know there’s a lot that we have to do.

But I want you to know there’s also so much we can do. 

We are the United States of America.

We’ve been through hard times before as a nation, and we’ll come through this as well.

I promise you. We will.

May God bless you all.

May God protect our troops.

Cuomo Details Plan to Distribute First Doses of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine to New Yorkers

FDA Expected to Authorize Pfizer Vaccine This Week; New York Could Receive Initial Allocation of 170,000 Doses Beginning this Weekend

Nursing Home Residents, Nursing Home Staff and ‘High Risk’ Hospital Workers Prioritized First

90 Cold Storage Sites Identified Across the State to Receive and Store Vaccines

New York National Guard Selected by Department of Defense to Participate in One of 16 Pilot Programs Aimed at Vaccinating Military Personnel

With the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed the priorities for distributing what is expected to be an initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed plan for distributing what is expected to be an initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines as soon as this weekend.

The state’s vaccination distribution effort will focus on battling skepticism, include outreach to Black, Brown and poor communities, as well as expedited distribution and administration.

“Distributing the vaccine is a massive undertaking. I think frankly, people have not focused enough on the extent of what this undertaking means. I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here,” Governor Cuomo said. “The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution. The military is doing the transportation with private companies, and they will send it where we ask them to send it. We then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff and high-risk health care workers. We’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA tomorrow. Immediately after that, our New York State panel will convene and review and approve it. They’ve already been speaking to the FDA about the process.”

As outlined in New York’s vaccination program, high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.

New York has opted into the federal government’s nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff in these facilities, much like the do for the flu vaccine. New York State will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as “high-risk” in line with state rules.

If authorized by the FDA, the first delivery of Pfizer vaccines for the federal nursing home vaccination program could begin arriving next week, with the federal program slated to begin on December 21. New York is dedicating a portion of its initial allotment of 170,000 doses to this program. Portions of future state allocations will also be used to help complete the program and ensure all residents and staff are vaccinated.

‘High risk’ hospital workers eligible to receive a vaccination from the state’s initial allotment include emergency room workers, ICU staff and pulmonary department staff. As part of the effort to vaccinate ‘high risk’ hospital staff, the state has identified 90 locations across the state with requisite cold storage capabilities and those sites will receive enough doses for approximately 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff, or 40 percent of the entire patient-facing hospital workforce. The state expects all ‘high risk’ hospital staff will receive a vaccine by the end of week two. Staff at every hospital in New York State, regardless of storage capabilities, will have access to the first allocation of a vaccine.

The vaccine will be allocated on a regional basis. Regional estimated distributions are as follows:

  • New York City -72,000
  • Long Island – 26,500
  • MidHudson – 19,200
  • Capital Region – 7,850
  • North Country – 3,700
  • Mohawk Valley – 4,200
  • Central New York – 6,400
  • Southern Tier – 4,500
  • Finger Lakes – 11,150
  • Western New York – 14,500

Following the vaccination of ‘high risk’ health care workers, the priority will shift to all long-term and congregate care residents and staff, EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population will follow those groups, and those with the highest risk will be prioritized.

Additionally, the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as one of 16 pilot programs across the nation to be part of the limited distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. Members of the New York Army and Air National Guard who serve as part of the state’s COVID response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.

In his daily update, Cuomo said, “New York expects the initial allocation of 170,000 doses. The federal government is doing the allocation based on state population. Again, they distribute it to the state, the state then turns around and does an allocation within the state. It could arrive as soon as this weekend. That assumes the FDA does act right away. The FDA does approve it and the military turns around and ships it immediately. It could actually be coming this weekend. Further allocations will be in the following weeks.

“Our state priority: Nursing home residents first, nursing home staff. There was a discussion about if you do the residents or do you do the staff. New York, we decided to do both residents and the nursing home staff. Then you go to high-risk hospital workers. We have about 700,000 hospital workers in this state so its’s a very large population. We’ll prioritize the high-risk hospital workers within that overall health care population. We have rules that we have established that we will send to hospitals about what is a quote, unquote high-risk health care worker. The hospitals will select the actual individuals who will get the first vaccines within that guidance. Emergency room workers, ICU staff, pulmonary department staff.

“The allocation by region, again, this is based on number of nursing home residents, number of nursing home staff and number of high-risk health care workers. The 90 locations across the state that can provide the cold storage will receive enough doses for roughly 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff. That is 40 percent of the total hospital patient-facing workforce of 225. The 225,000 is a subset of the overall 700,000, obviously. By the end of week two, if all goes well and the federal government sticks to the schedule, we expect all high-risk staff will receive the vaccination. Staff at every hospital will have access to the allocation, even if their hospital doesn’t have this cold storage capacity. They will have access to the vaccine by a hospital in their region that does have that storage capacity. After we take care of all the high-risk healthcare workers, we’ll then move to all long-term and congregate care staff and residents. NEMS and other healthcare workers and then essential workers, general population, starting with those who have the highest risk.

“The federal government offered a program that New York State opted into, whereby pharmacies will do the vaccinations in nursing homes, which will take a burden off the nursing home staff, and New York has opted into that program. It’s run by the federal government, but basically they subcontract with private companies to do the vaccinations in nursing homes. Flu vaccine we do this way. New York by participating in that program, we provide part of our allocation to that program, so we actually have enough vaccinations to cover all residents. Part of the future allocations will ensure enough doses to make sure we complete that program. Completion is all nursing home residents and staff.

“We expect deliveries to begin next week. The federal administration says they’re going to start by 12/21. New York is dedicating part of our initial allocation to the program, but we do expect to have enough to cover all residents and all staff. The staff is actually vaccinated on a rolling basis to make sure they have staff that’s receiving the vaccine and staff that’s working at all times.

We’re also pleased that the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as a pilot program where they will vaccinate people from the National Guard who have been working on our COVID-19 task force. And New York is pleased to participate in that. And the National Guard who have been doing a phenomenal job for the past nine months as we’ve worked through this barrage, they’ll be eligible for the vaccine also.

“The fairness of the vaccine is paramount, and I mentioned it before, but we have to make sure this nation understands that we can’t make the same mistake twice. Death rate among Blacks, twice what the death rate among whites is from COVID. Death rate among Latinos, one and a half times the death rate among whites. COVID testing, fewer tests taken in the Black and Latino and poor communities. It was just a manifestation of the disparity in healthcare, and it has to be corrected during the vaccination program. we have to get into public housing. We have to partner with Black churches and Latino churches, community groups. This has to be a fair distribution, and New York will lead the way. We’ve made these concerns known to HHS, I’ve sent letters, I’ve done speeches, I’m working with civil rights groups across the state. Made these points to Congress on several occasions, we’re working with the NAACP, Mr. Johnson, we’re working with the Urban League, Mayor Marc Morial. But this is a point that we have to bring home and we have to be successful.

“We do have good news that we waged a similar effort on the rules for vaccinations for undocumented people. The way the federal government constructed the program, basically they wanted the states to collect social security numbers, passport numbers or driver’s license numbers for anybody vaccinated. These are all bells for people who are undocumented, alarm bells. And it sounded like you were trying to use the vaccination to identify undocumented people. We have gone through this with the federal government at length wit the trusted traveler program previously. If undocumented people don’t get vaccinated, it compromises their health and it compromises the whole program. again, the program only works if you hit a critical mass of the population. If you say, well, the undocumenteds we’re going to exclude practically because they don’t come in and participate, you have 50 percent of the population that’s skeptical, if we’re not going to reach out to the Black, Latino and poor communities, it’s never going to be a success. So, we raised this point again. We did letters. I did speeches. I’ve spoken out publicly and HHS has agreed. The CDC specifically has agreed that the State will not send individual data identifying a person in a way that could be used to document citizenship or deportation, et cetera.

“We insisted on that in what’s called the data-sharing agreement, data use agreement, and the CDC agreed. So, that is a better vaccination program for this country and for this state. It took a lot of work, but I want to congratulate all the advocates and people who stepped up and spoke up, because it was a good service.”

President-Elect Biden Names his Health Care, COVID-19 Team, Outlines First 100-Days Strategy: Masking, Vaccinations, Schools

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. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 lays out his 100-days strategy to get control of COVID-19 that is devastating lives and livelihoods: masking, vaccinations, schools (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-feetures.com

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. 

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.

Dr. Vivek Murthy will reprise his role as Surgeon General of the United States © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky is being hailed as Biden’s pick asDirector of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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. 

Jeff Zients, selected to be the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team. “There’s no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country,” Biden said. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Governor Cuomo Calls on Congress to Renew, Expand Federal COVID Relief

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, now the chair of the National Governors Association, entreated Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face record levels of coronavirus  infections, hospitalizations and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The programs provide critical benefits for millions of American families that have faced unemployment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including supplemental benefits for individuals and support for local and state governments. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face another surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed.

“The pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis. As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop COVID, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire. Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk,” Governor Cuomo said.”Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans.”

Separately, Cuomo, who is also National Governors Association Chairman, and Arkansas Governor and NGA Vice Chairman Asa Hutchinson issued a statement regarding ongoing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill:

“Even as COVID-19 vaccine trials show remarkable results and the pandemic finish line is in sight, the danger the virus poses has never been greater. Today our country is seeing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths — every single state has been affected.

“It is time for Washington to step up and deliver desperately needed relief for their constituents. Governors are heartened that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are now talking with each other to find a way forward. We encourage leadership to stay at the bargaining table and work out a deal that delivers the critical relief to the American people.

“As an interim measure to address states immediate and pressing needs, we support the bipartisan framework proposed by Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Bill Cassidy and a bipartisan group of their colleagues as a response that would bring meaningful relief to those who are struggling; situate states to quickly, effectively and equitably implement their vaccination plans; and prime the economy to allow for a faster rebound.

“Governors have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, procuring lifesaving medical and personal protective equipment, establishing field hospitals, and providing economic relief to small businesses and workers. But this is a national crisis, cutting across geographic, economic and demographic lines, and it demands a national, bipartisan solution. Congress should not leave Washington for the holiday recess without enacting a much-needed COVID relief package. We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration in the new year on a more comprehensive COVID relief package.” 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, New York State has paid more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.8 million New Yorkers — which represents more than 26 typical years’ worth of benefits. Nationwide, more than 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including 12 million covered by programs that will expire on December 31, 2020. In New York, that includes 1.2 million current claims from New Yorkers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and 682,000 claims from individuals who are receiving 13 additional weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after exhausting the 26 weeks of traditional benefits.

Here is Governor Cuomo’s full letter detailing the aid that is requested:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As you are well aware, the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country, with the United States entering what appears to be another surge of infections this fall. While disturbing, this increase is not surprising — experts told us that as temperatures fell, cases would increase, and those predictions have unfortunately come true.

The physical toll of the pandemic is well known: 12 million Americans have been infected and more than 250,000 have lost their lives. 

But the pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis with unheard of levels of unemployment across the nation. Since March, more than 68 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, representing over 42 percent of the nation’s workforce. Last week, the number of newly filed claims nationwide grew by 31,000, representing the first week-over-week increase after four weeks of decreasing claims.

Unlike the federal government’s response to the virus itself, Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic — supplying Americans with federally-funded stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, and benefits for freelancers, the self-employed, and others who are not typically covered by traditional unemployment insurance.

However, as we enter the holiday season — and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — Washington’s inaction is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk. 

When the CARES Act was passed in March, roughly 10 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic — today, that number has increased by nearly 600%. At the time, the nation had only faced two weeks with unemployment claims above the pre-pandemic high of 695,000. Now, we have surpassed that level for 35 weeks straight.

Yet despite this worsening economic picture, many critical support programs that were put in place earlier this year have already expired and the few remaining ones are set to expire just days after Christmas. This is simply unacceptable and must be rectified.

The Senate and House must work to renew and expand federal unemployment benefits for Americans while supporting the state governments that are implementing these programs and disbursing the benefits. 

The following programs should be extended or renewed through the end of the federal Fiscal Year 2021:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)— This program, which is set to expire on December 31, 2020, allows freelancers, self-employed individuals, and others who are not typically eligible for unemployment insurance to receive 46 weeks of federal benefits. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 8.7 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PUA.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)— This program, which is also set to expire on December 31, 2020, provides an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to Americans who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 4.4 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PEUC.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)— Created by the CARES Act, this program provided federal supplemental benefits of $600 per week to all unemployed Americans. After expiring in late July, this program was temporarily replaced with the Lost Wages Assistance program, which failed to adequately address the continuing needs of the American public, while causing more administrative work for states.
  • Federal Support for Shared Work— Shared work programs allow employers to keep staff partially-employed while still cutting costs. Rather than laying off their staff, a business is able to reduce all workers’ hours, with unemployment benefits replacing some or all of their lost wages. To encourage use of these programs, the federal government fully funded states’ shared work programs, but this support is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
  • Reimbursements for Local Government, Non-profit, and Tribal Employers— Recognizing the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local governments, non-profit organizations, and tribal nations, the federal government agreed to reimburse half of unemployment benefits these employers paid out. That support is due to expire on December 31, 2020, putting further strain on organizations that are already struggling to stay afloat and provide needed services during this crisis.
  • Support for State Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds— Due to the unprecedented surge in unemployment insurance claims, states across the country have exhausted their unemployment insurance trust funds. Earlier this year, the Federal government allowed states to borrow to replenish their trust funds interest-free. Starting next year, those loans will begin accruing interest — even as unemployment levels remain at critically high levels. All states should be allowed to continue borrowing for their unemployment insurance trust funds without accruing interest next year. Further, the federal government must recognize the impact repaying these loans will have on businesses, especially already-struggling small businesses, and fully forgive all loans.
  • Cost-Sharing for Unemployment Insurance Administrative Costs— Every state’s unemployment insurance system has been tested by the pandemic response, and many state departments of labor have implemented multiple new federal programs using decades-old technology. The Federal government has so far paid half of these administrative costs — that should increase to 100 percent reimbursement, but at the bare minimum this cost sharing must continue. Failing to do so will significantly harm states’ abilities to support unemployed workers.

The United States of America’s economy remains in crisis. More than 20 million of our neighbors received some form of unemployment benefits during the week ending October 31st — over thirteen times the number receiving benefits this time last year.

Not extending these programs — which can largely be accomplished by passing the unemployment and workforce provisions of H.R. 925, the HEROES Act — is akin to abandoning millions of Americans in their time of need. Congress must take action before the calendar year ends, and anything less would be an abdication of your duty.

I look forward to your immediate attention to these matters.

Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, New York State
Chair, National Governors Association 

Biden on COVID-19 Surge: ‘Urgent Action is Needed Today’ In Absence of Federal Response, ‘Now is a Moment for Shared Responsibility and Shared Action’

President-Elect Joe Biden urged shared responsibility and shared action in response to a horrific surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, after meeting with the co-chairs of his transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. “Urgent action is needed today,” he said.  In absence of a federal response, “now is a moment for shared responsibility and shared action.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden urged shared responsibility and shared action in response to a horrific surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, after meeting with the co-chairs of his transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Here is his statement:

Today, I met with the co-chairs of the transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. David Kessler, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. 

They briefed me on the accelerating public health crisis. The facts they presented were alarming. Our country is experiencing surges in reported infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities all over the country, with virtually nowhere getting spared. Our doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are under enormous — and growing — strain. This week’s news on progress toward a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is positive, but it will be many months before there is widespread vaccination in this country. 

This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is. Resources for frontline health care workers, including personal protective equipment that is again in short supply. Surge capacity for hospitals that are at risk of running out of beds. Clear, science-based guidance for states, cities, tribal communities, businesses, and schools that are trying to manage the pandemic. Effective distribution of testing kits and supplies, as well as treatments and therapeutics. Making a priority of dealing with persistent race-based disparities in this pandemic.

Today, I renew my call for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others. I understand it’s not easy. I know people are tired. But this will not go on forever. We are moving toward a vaccine. We are improving our ability to test. We are developing better treatments. We can get through this — and come out the other side stronger. But right now is a moment for shared responsibility and shared action. Together, we have the power to rein in this virus. And I promise you, from the moment I am sworn in on January 20, I will do everything in my power to lead this unified national effort.

President-Elect Biden Sets Mitigating COVID-19 as Top Priority, Names Task Force, Urges Mask-Wearing as Key to ‘Getting Back to Normal Life’

Victory celebration in Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday, November 7 after Joe Biden crossed the 270-Electoral Vote threshold. President-Elect Joe Biden with Jill Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris with husband Douglas Emhoff. Biden has hit ground running, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as his top priority © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, obscenely obsessive about being in the spotlight, fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper in order to step on reporting of President-Elect Joe Biden’s remarks about actions he is taking to curb the potentially fatal COVID-19 pandemic, even before he takes the helm on January 20, 2021. But his remarks are crucial, and show up Trump for his most cynical failure of a remarkably failed occupation of the Oval Office: failing to develop a national strategy to mitigate the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, and bring Americans onboard in common cause and united purpose to contain the disease which has already infected 10 million and killed 240,000.

As Trump golfed over the weekend and Biden’s election totals hit the magic number of 270 Electoral College votes, there were new records in the number of infections set daily (120,000 a day) and 1,000 people a day dying so that it is forecast by Election Day another 100,000 could be dead under the Trump laissez-faire policy. Tens of thousands of lives could have been, should have been saved with a federal administration that organized PPE, ventilators, hospital beds and health personnel instead of letting states fend and even compete for themselves, and most importantly, if Trump promoted wearing masks, instead of holding super-spreader rallies and events and politicizing and demonizing mask-wearing.

Biden already has struck a dramatically different tone and taken actual actions to address the coronavirus pandemic, starting with giving a frank, science-based and realistic timetable and appointing a task force of experts to develop a plan of action. Even with the progress made toward a vaccine, it will take months before enough people can take the vaccine in order to achieve the “herd immunity” (that won’t come “magically” by washing over the general population and killing six million).

Here are President-elect Biden’s remarks as prepared for delivery in Wilmington, Delaware:  — Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Good afternoon, everyone.
 
As I said on Saturday, I am humbled by the trust and confidence that the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris.
 
And we are ready to get to work, addressing the needs of the American people.
 
Today that work begins. 
 
It starts by doing everything possible to get COVID-19 under control so that we can reopen our businesses safely and sustainably, resume our lives, and put this pandemic behind us.
 
We’ve just received positive news in this fight with the announcement of progress toward a successful vaccine candidate. 

Soon, the FDA will run a process of rigorous reviews and approvals.
 
That 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 challenge before us right now is still immense and growing, and so is the need for bold action to fight this pandemic. 
 
We are still facing a dark winter. There are now nearly 10 million COVID-19 cases in the United States.
 
Last week — we topped 120,000 new cases on multiple days.

 
Infection rates are going up. Hospitalizations are going up. Deaths are going up.
 
This crisis claims nearly a thousand American lives a day, nearly 240,000 deaths so far.


And projections still indicate we could lose 200,000 more lives in the coming months before a vaccine can be made available to everyone.
 
So we cannot forego the important work that needs to be done between now and then to get our country through the worst wave yet of this pandemic.

To reduce spread. To save lives. 
 
That’s why, today I have named a COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board, comprised of distinguished public health experts, to help our transition team translate the Biden-Harris COVID-19 plan into an action blueprint that we can put into place as soon as Kamala and I are sworn into office on January 20, 2021.
 
And we will seek to add other members to this board who bring important perspectives and public health expertise throughout the transition.

This group will advise on detailed plans built on a bedrock of science, and that keep compassion, empathy, and care for every American at its core: 

Making rapid testing widely available, and building a corps of contact tracers who will track and curb this disease while we prioritize getting vaccinations first to the most at risk populations.
 
Developing clear and detailed guidance and providing the necessary resources for small businesses, schools, and child-care centers to reopen and operate safely and effectively during the pandemic—protecting both workers and the public.

Regarding Pfizer’s vaccine progress, Biden stated:

Last night, my public health advisors were informed of this excellent news. I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.   At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away. This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.   This is why the head of the CDC warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine. Today’s news does not change this urgent reality.

Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact. America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising — and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same.

Biden urged Americans to wear a mask. “A mask is not a political statement,” he said. The goal of wearing a mask is to “give something back to all of us: a normal life.”