Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware
[As prepared for delivery]
Today, I am announcing our health care and COVID team at a critical time, as we near the end of one of the toughest years we've faced as a nation.
More than 285,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19 — and counting.
Last week, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death in America.
For Black, Latino, and Native Americans — who are nearly three times as likely to die from it — COVID-19 is a mass casualty event.
For families and friends left behind, it's a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal.
And as a country, we've been living with this pandemic for so long that we're at risk of becoming numb to its toll on us.
We're resigned to feel there is nothing we can do. That we can't trust one another. That we must accept the death, the pain, and the sorrow.
We are in the midst of this deadly pandemic that has infected almost 15 million Americans — one out of every 22 of our people — often with devastating consequences to their health.
And at this very moment, what is the outgoing Administration asking the Supreme Court of the United States to do? To repeal in its entirety the Affordable Care Act.
A law that's on the frontlines against the pandemic.
That protects more than 100 million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions — which now includes lung scarring and heart damage from COVID-19.
That provides coverage to more than 20 million Americans who get the care they need if they're showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The law that fulfills our moral obligation that, here in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.
But I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose — to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation.
Today, I am pleased to announce the team that will do just that.
It's a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields. Crisis-tested. Defined by a deep sense of duty, honor, and patriotism.
They are ready on Day One to spare no effort and get the pandemic under control, so we can get back to work, back to our lives, and back to our loved ones.
They will lead the COVID-19 response across our government to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain, and distribute the vaccine.
They will work with my economic team — because controlling the pandemic, delivering better health care, and reviving the economy go hand in hand.
They will work with my foreign policy and national security team — because we can only beat this virus if we beat it everywhere.
And today I am announcing that — in consultation with Dr. Tony Fauci — we've developed the first three objectives and new initiatives that I am asking this team to complete during my first 100 days in office.
My first 100 days won't end COVID-19. I cannot promise that. We did not get into this mess quickly, and it's going to take time to fix.
But I am convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.
First, my 100 day masking plan.
It starts with my signing an order on Day One to require masks where I can — like federal buildings and interstate travel on planes, trains, and buses.
I'll be working with governors and mayors to do the same in states and cities.
We are going to require masks wherever possible, but this goes beyond government action.
And so, as a new President, I'm going to speak directly to the American people.
We need your help. Wear a mask for 100 days.
It's the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Help yourself, your family, your community. Whatever your politics or point of view — mask up for 100 days.
100 days to make a difference.
It's not a political statement — it's a patriotic act.
It won't be the end of our efforts. But it's a necessary and easy start.
Second, this team will help get at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of Americans in 100 days.
We will follow the guidance of scientists and get vaccines to those most at-risk.
That includes health care personnel and people in long-term care; and, as soon as possible, that will include educators.
This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history. I credit everyone who has gotten us to this point, but developing the vaccine is one herculean task.
Distributing it is another.
And vaccines in a vial only work if they are injected into the arms of people, especially those most at risk.
This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our history.
We're going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of our country.
I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress around a $900 billion economic relief package, which I've said is critical now, but this package is only a start for more action early next year.
We must also focus significant resources on the direct public health response to COVID-19.
Our preliminary review of the Trump Administration's vaccine distribution plan confirms media reports.
Without urgent action this month by Congress 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.
Let me repeat: We need Congress to finish the bipartisan work underway now or
millions of Americans may wait months longer — months longer — than they otherwise would have to get their vaccinations.
And then we will need additional action next year to fund the rest of our distribution efforts.
We also need the Trump Administration to act now to purchase the doses it has negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna and to work swiftly to scale manufacturing for the U.S. population and the world.
This can be fixed.
If it does, my team will be able to get at least 100 million vaccinations done in my first 100 days.
Third, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school.
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.
That's right, we will look to have most of the schools open in 100 days if Congress provides the funding we need.
Masking. Vaccinations. Opening schools.
These are three key goals for my first 100 days.
But we will still have much to do in the year ahead. And sadly, much difficulty, too. We will be far, far from done.
Yet, it is possible that after 100 days, we will be much further along in the fight against the pandemic.
And I'm grateful for the members of my core COVID team, that I will now introduce, to lead the way.
For Secretary of Health and Human Services, I nominate Xavier Becerra.
He's currently Attorney General of California, leading the second largest Justice Department in America — only behind the United States Department of Justice.
For nearly 25 years before that, he was a Congressman representing Los Angeles, one of America's largest and most diverse cities.
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.
During the pandemic, he's protected the safety of frontline healthcare workers, rooted out fraud from bad actors taking advantage of people, and stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgage during the devastating economic crisis.
And as HHS Secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and FDA, Medicare and Medicaid.
No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he will lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act.
He'll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care and prescription drug costs.
Xavier is the key leader who will lead the key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people.
He will also be the first Latino leading HHS, a son from a working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico.
A true public servant who has dedicated his career in service to the people, and in service to this country that we all love.
To serve as the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team, I'm turning to a world-class manager and leader, Jeff Zients.
I've known Jeff for a long time — from the first and last days of the Obama-Biden White House, and throughout the campaign, and now the transition.
There's no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country.
Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.
Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
He was there during the Great Recession, as we went from crisis to recovery to resurgence over eight years.
He was there to lead the team and help implement the Affordable Care Act — to get HealthCare.gov up and working at a critical moment. That was a monumental feat that required vision, patience, and fortitude and expertise.
Well-respected across the aisle, and around the country from business and labor leaders to entrepreneurs and educators.
Chairman of the Board of Children's National Medical Center, one of the world's top children's hospitals.
Jeff knows how to build and lead a team. How to identify and solve problems.
And how to fully mobilize the federal government on behalf of the health, safety, and prosperity of the American people.
For Surgeon General of the United States, I nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy.
A renowned physician and research scientist. A trusted national leader on health care, and for me, a trusted advisor during this campaign and transition.
This will be his second time serving as America's Doctor, having served in this role under President Obama.
During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face — from the opioid crisis to threats to America's mental health.
I've asked Dr. Murthy to serve again as Surgeon General — but with expanded responsibilities.
He will be a key public voice on our COVID response, to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine.
But he will also be a key advisor to me and help lead an all-government approach to broader public health issues — mental health, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental determinants of health, and so much more.
Above all, he will help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities.
A son of Indian immigrants, who raised their children to always believe in the promise of America.
Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisors — and I'm grateful for his continued public service.
For Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I appoint Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
She is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at one of the country's preeminent hospitals, Massachusetts General in Boston.
A distinguished professor at Harvard Medical School. A world-class physician.
One of the nation's foremost experts on the testing, treatment, and eradication of viruses.
She has served on the front lines of the COVID crisis. She has conducted groundbreaking research on vaccine delivery, including how to reach underserved communities that are too often hit first and the hardest.
Dr. Walensky's work was instrumental in helping the world mitigate one public health crisis — HIV/AIDS.
It inspired her as a young doctor to pursue her pioneering research in virus containment.
Now, she will bring her experience to bear against COVID-19.
She is uniquely qualified to restore morale and public trust.
She will marshal our finest scientists and public health experts at the CDC to turn the tide on the urgent crisis facing us today.
Because of the pandemic's disproportionate impact on communities of color, I concluded we need a COVID-19 Equity Task Force.
To chair it, I appoint Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. One of the country's foremost experts on health care disparities.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine.
Founding director of Yale's Equity Research and Innovation Center.
And co-chair of my COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board.
Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead our efforts to provide care to the communities most in need and most affected by the pandemic and most often overlooked.
She will ensure that fairness and equity are at the center of every part of our response.
This is a central front in our fight against the pandemic, and I am grateful Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead this charge.
And finally, as both head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and my chief medical advisor on COVID-19 — I am pleased that Dr. Tony Fauci will be a member of my core COVID team.
By now, he needs no introduction.
But he will have my gratitude when I'm president, the seventh president he will have served.
We've known each other a long time.
I've seen him take on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, and every infectious disease in between, over his nearly forty years of service to our country.
Trusted. A truth teller. A patriot.
Like every good doctor, he will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.
This is my core COVID and health care team.
Before January 20, we will be adding more leaders to oversee vaccine distribution, supply chain, testing, and other key functions.
To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve. And to your families, thank you. We could not do this without them, or without you.
And to the American people, I know we've all had a lot of sleepless nights this year.
So many of you staring at the ceiling late at night, worrying if you're going to be okay.
All I can tell you is the truth.
We're in a dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better. A vaccine may soon be available. But we need to level with each other.
It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of our country.
We will need to persuade enough Americans to take it.
It's daunting, but I promise you that we will make progress starting on Day One.
But we didn't get into this mess quickly, and it'll take time to fix.
That's the truth, and telling you the truth is what this team, Vice President-elect Harris, and I will always do.
This is one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced.
But I know that we will overcome — and heal — together as one nation.
To all of the front-line health professionals and first responders, the grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers, the educators, parents, and our children.
Thank you for everything you have done to get us through this crisis thus far.
We will never give up on you.
And we will never give up on our country.
We can do this, together.
To all those we have lost in this pandemic, and all those sick and suffering, our hearts go out to you.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops.
I'll now turn it over to the team, starting with our next Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347278