President-elect Joe Biden plans to deliver an address on the coronavirus pandemic as the nation experiences what his chief medical adviser on the issue, Anthony S. Fauci, described Tuesday as a surge in cases “that has just gotten out of control in many respects.”
Biden’s remarks, planned Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, Del., are expected to be his most extensive comments to date since early this month, when he laid out a plan for his first 100 days in office that included imploring all Americans to wear masks.
Fauci, appearing on CNN on Tuesday morning, lamented what he expects to be a post-holiday increase in cases and the strong possibility than January’s caseload will exceed even that of December. “You just have to assume it’s going to get worse,” Fauci said.
Fauci also acknowledged that the rollout of vaccines was not reaching as many Americans as quickly as the 20 million that Trump administration had pledged by the end of the month.
“We certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We are below where we want to be.”
But Fauci, who accepted Biden’s invitation to play an expanded role in his administration, expressed hope that by “showing leadership from the top,” Biden could make an impact — comments that appeared to be implicit criticism of President Trump, who has said little publicly about the crisis since Election Day.
“What he’s saying is that let’s take at least 100 days and everybody, every single person put aside this nonsense of making masks be a political statement or not,” Fauci said of Biden. “We know what works. We know social distancing works. We know avoiding congregant settings works. For goodness sakes, let’s all do it, and you will see that curve will come down.”
Separately Tuesday, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris plans to get vaccinated in Washington. Biden received his first shot last week.
In remarks earlier this month, Biden also pledged to distribute 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office and said he wanted to open as many schools safely during the period as possible. He has also promised to sign an executive order requiring masks to be worn on federal property.
On Monday, Celine Gounder, a member of Biden’s covid-19 advisory board, said during a television appearance that Biden is also considering invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production of coronavirus vaccines,
Appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Grounder said Biden could invoke the wartime-production law “to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply.”
During his CNN appearance, Fauci said that getting children back to school safely should remain an imperative, despite rising caseloads.
“You can’t have one size fits all, but the bottom line, what I call default position, should be that wherever we are, try as best as we can to get the children back to school and to keep them in school and to have a plan to try and keep them as safe as possible,” he said.
About 200,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported daily in recent weeks, with a record high of 252,431 on Dec. 17.
The nation’s overall caseload surpassed 19 million Sunday, even as the holidays were expected to cause a lag in reporting. Hospitalizations have exceeded 100,000 since the start of December and hit a peak of 119,000 on Dec. 23. Deaths are averaging more than 2,000 a day, with the most ever reported — 3,406 fatalities — on Dec. 17.