As the United States surpassed 15 million confirmed Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced key members of his health team and laid out three goals for combatting the pandemic during his first 100 days in office: “Masking. Vaccinations. Opening schools.”
Biden said that he the pandemic won’t end in his first 100 days, and he warned that “things may well get worse before they get better.” But he said he was confident that over his first 100 days, “we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”
To do that, he said, he would sign an executive order on his first day as president requiring masks in places where he can do so, including in federal buildings and during interstate travel on planes, trains and buses. And he reiterated that he would ask governors and mayors to require masks and ask the American public to wear masks for 100 days to help reduce the spread of the virus. “It’s not a political statement — it's a patriotic act,” he said.
Biden also said he and his team would get Americans at least 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days, calling on Congress to pass a $900 billion bipartisan Covid-relief package and provide the needed funding, warning that millions of Americans may otherwise have to wait months longer to get vaccinated.
“This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our nation’s history,” he said. “Without urgent action by this Congress this month 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.”
Biden added that getting students back in classrooms should be a national priority, again urging Congress to provide money toward the goal. “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,” he said.
Becerra Faces Senate Fight: Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, may be headed for a confirmation fight in the Republican-controlled Senate, as a number of GOP senators have already raised questions about his qualifications.
”I’m not sure what his Health and Human Services credentials are,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, according to Bloomberg News. “It’s not like Alex Azar who used to work for pharma and have a health-care background,” he said referring to the current HHS secretary.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas called Becerra a “disaster” who is “unqualified” to lead the department. “I’ll be voting no, and Becerra should be rejected by the Senate,” he wrote on Twitter.
Republicans have signaled that they will delay hearings on Becerra’s nomination.
Biden on Tuesday praised Becerra’s track record. “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,” he said.