Biden urges Americans to be safe as Covid spikes ahead of Thanksgiving
Millions of Americans have flocked to airports and highways for the holiday
US president-elect Joe Biden arrives to deliver a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty
US president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday pleaded with Americans to take steps to remain safe as Covid-19 cases surged on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Mr Biden pledged again to make combating the pandemic a top priority when he takes office in January.
“I believe you always deserve to hear the truth from your president,” Mr Biden said in a pre-Thanksgiving speech. “We have to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and the nurses and the frontline workers ... We owe it to our fellow citizens.”
He urged people to forgo big family gatherings, wear protective masks and maintain social distancing.
“I know we can and we will beat this virus,” Mr Biden added, acknowledging that Americans were feeling pandemic fatigue. “Life is going to return to normal. I promise you. This will happen. This will not last for ever.”
“Looking back over our history, you see that it’s been in the most difficult circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged. And now we find ourselves again facing a long hard winter.”
Public health officials have urged Americans to stay at home for Thursday’s holiday and avoid large gatherings that could spread the pathogen. More than 260,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, with the daily toll on Tuesday surpassing 2,000 for the first time since May, as infections and hospitalisations surge nationally.
Millions of Americans have flocked to airports and highways, leading to the busiest US travel period since the early days of the pandemic in March, though well below pre-pandemic holiday levels.
Aides said Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris planned to spend Thanksgiving with their families.
Mr Biden next week plans to name his choices for key positions in his administration, including his economic team, communications director Kate Bedingfield said. They are expected to include former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen as US treasury secretary.
US president Donald Trump’s administration on Monday gave the green light to formal transition efforts even as he continues to challenge the election results by making unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud. Mr Biden was expected to receive his first presidential daily intelligence briefing on Monday, Ms Bedingfield said.
Biden transition adviser Jen Psaki said classified information was being shared with Mr Biden’s senior team. Ms Bedingfield added that Biden’s team has been encouraged by the “professional and welcoming response” of civil servants, and downplayed the impact of the Trump administration’s delay in beginning the transition process.
Mr Biden introduced his foreign policy and national security team on Tuesday. Mr Biden on Wednesday received belated congratulations for his election victory from China’s president, Xi Jinping.
Mr Xi said healthy ties between the world’s two biggest economies were not only in the fundamental interests of their two peoples but also expected by the international community, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
During the election campaign, Mr Biden vowed a tough line on China’s expanding influence worldwide and called Mr Xi a “thug” for his human rights practices.
Mr Trump on Wednesday cancelled a trip to accompany his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to a meeting of Republican state legislators in Gettysburg, where Mr Giuliani repeated his unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud.
But Mr Trump spoke to the participants by speaker phone, repeating his debunked claims that the election had been stolen, drawing cheers from the partisan crowd.