“One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis, I'm going to tell it to you straight. I'm going to tell you the truth. And here's the simple truth: our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us,” Mr Biden said in prepared remarks for the holidays from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“So we need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines, as frustrating as it is to hear. It's gonna take patience, persistence, and determination to beat this virus.”
Mr Biden has been beating the same drum about a “very dark winter” with regard to the Covid crisis since before the 2020 election, a stark departure from Donald Trump’s rhetoric downplaying the pandemic so as not to sow “chaos”, as his administration has put it.
The president-elect reiterated to reporters on Tuesday that his number one priority is making sure at least 300 million Americans receive one of the Covid vaccines as quickly as possible, free of charge. The Food and Drug Administration so far has issued emergency approval for a pair of vaccines produced by the drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna. More vaccine candidates are pending approval.
Until then, Americans must continue following public health guidelines, Mr Biden said, even if that means not gathering together as families for Christmas, Chanukah, and other winter celebrations.
The Biden family Christmas usually includes 20 to 25 people, he said. Not this year, though.
“We need everyone to mask up, stay socially distanced, avoid large gatherings – particularly inside,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday from Wilmington.
Covid deaths have continued to mount in the US. Last Wednesday, 16 December, the nation recorded more than 3,500 deaths from the virus, the most on record. More than 18.1 million Americans have contracted the virus in 2020, including 320,000 who have died.
The president-elect peppered his speech on Tuesday with bipartisan compliments to both chambers of Congress for reaching agreement on a $900bn emergency Covid relief package earlier this week, which he says he plans to build on in the new year.
“Leaders in both the House and Senate, both parties, deserve credit for making the hard compromises to get this done,” Mr Biden said of the Covid bill that extends unemployment aid, bolsters key small business lending programmes, and provides $600 stimulus checks to most Ameicans.
“Like all compromises, [Monday’s bill] is far from perfect,” he said, positing that it does not go far enough to address long-term issues such as unemployment, job creation, and people’s ability to make rent and mortgage payments.
“But it does provide vital relief at a critical moment,” he added.
Mr Biden did not provide specifics on what he would ask for in the next Covid bill, although he did make one critical commitment: there will be a third round of stimulus checks.
“Will your plan include a new round of stimulus checks to the American people and, if so, for how much?” a reporter asked the president-elect on Tuesday.
“Look, that's a that's a negotiating issue,” Mr Biden said about his target for the dollar amount of each check.
But his initial proposal will include another round of direct payments.
“Yes, it will,” he affirmed.
Mr Biden credited his old Democratic primary rival, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, for forcing stimulus checks back into the discussion for the $900bn Covid package that is set to be signed into law later this week.
Mr Sanders had been threatening to let government funding lapse if Monday’s bill did not include such payments.
“I think we owe Bernie Sanders and his Republican colleagues thanks for getting not all the stimulus – we looked for $1,200 – but getting $600 done,” Mr Biden said.
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