Michael P. Norton
After a briefing from his COVID-19 advisers, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday said infections over the holidays “will produce soaring case counts in January and a soaring death toll into February.”
According to his prepared remarks, Biden said he predicted in September, when the nation passed the 200,000 deaths milestone, that the U.S. would hit 400,000 deaths before the Trump administration departs in January, and “critics said I was being too alarmist and negative.” But Biden said it looks like the “grim milestone” will be hit, adding, “We’re averaging a daily death rate of nearly 2,200 people — which means we will lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come. Hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity. And that’s data before we see the impact of cases coming from the holidays. People getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks, and those who perish from the disease die weeks after exposure.”
Biden said the U.S will get past the virus, but “it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done” with perhaps the toughest months of the pandemic still ahead. “As we end one of the most difficult years as a nation, I am optimistic about the future,” he said. “The vaccines that have been discovered and developed give us enormous hope. Our economy is poised to come back, and come alive. And I can see a return to normalcy in the next year.” But Biden also said that the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan “is falling behind, far behind” and forecast “we might not see improvement until well into March.”
Biden said he planned to speed up vaccination efforts and use presidential powers under the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed for the vaccine.