Biden Sets Ambitious Pandemic Response Goals for First 100 Days

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about jobs at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden detailed his coronavirus plans for the first 100 days in office on Tuesday by outlining three main objectives — mandating masks in federal buildings and other places under federal jurisdiction, opening the vast majority of schools in America and distributing 100 million vaccines to waiting Americans. 

“My first 100 days won’t end Covid-19,” Biden said while at The Queen, a theater in Wilmington, Delaware, that is serving as his transition headquarters. “But I am convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”

Biden unveiled his health team during the event, tapping California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and announcing he had consulted heavily with Dr. Anthony Fauci regarding his plan for the first 100 days. 

Fauci will also retain a spot in the Biden administration by continuing to serve as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a post that he has occupied since 1984. 

Biden said he will aim to distribute 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days. His plan will be steeped in notions of equity as black Americans and Latinos have been shown to suffer disproportionately from the disease, in terms of infections and deaths. 

The president-elect also subtly criticized the Trump administration for failing to secure more than 100 million vaccinations from Pfizer, which has said it will only sell 100 million to the United States given its contractual obligations to send vaccines to other countries. 

Pfizer said it gave the Trump administration multiple opportunities to opt in to a contract that would have provided more, but the administration declined to do so. President Donald Trump has denied this, but former Federal Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer confirmed the report multiple times on Tuesday. 

As did Biden. 

“Our preliminary review of the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan confirms media reports,” the president-elect said. “There is a real chance that after the early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall.”

Biden called for a bipartisan effort to fund a ramped-up vaccination program, focusing on manufacturing and distribution, in order to stave off a scenario where Americans have to wait months longer than they otherwise would. 

Biden also called for schools to reopen.

Public health officials initially called for the closure of schools, due to the propensity of children to serve as vectors for infectious diseases. But the coronavirus operates differently, as positivity rates in schools are often flat or even lower than rates in the community — bolstering scientific data that shows children are not becoming infected or passing the disease around in statistically significant ways. 

“My team will work to see that the majority of our schools will be open at the end of my 100 days,” Biden said. 

Finally, Biden said he would mandate mask wearing where federal jurisdiction applies — in government buildings and on airplanes, for instance.  

Biden has previously sidestepped the idea of mask mandates, as wearing a mask has proved politically contentious in the United States, with many libertarians saying it is a symbol of government imposition. 

Biden reiterated his position that wearing a mask should not be a political flashpoint. 

“It’s not a political statement — it’s a patriotic act,” he said. 

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