Biden Unveils Virus Plan But Says 100,000 May Die in Next Month
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden unveiled a national strategy to combat the coronavirus while issuing a sobering warning: The pandemic is likely to claim another 100,000 lives over roughly the next month and will worsen before it improves.
“We’ll move Heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated for free,” Biden said Thursday at the White House.
But he warned: “The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated.”
Biden announced a series of executive actions aimed at overhauling the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. He repeated his warning that the crisis will worsen before it improves, and that the U.S. will experience a “dark winter.”
But he encouraged Americans to be vigilant about wearing masks, saying the simple precaution could save 50,000 lives through April.
“The fact is, it’s the single best thing we can do -- more important than the vaccines,” he said.
The distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. has been plagued by delays, and Biden officials have criticized the Trump administration for the lags, saying there was no federal plan in place to ensure shots were administered.
“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 task force coordinator, said Wednesday.
The executive actions include stabilizing the supply chain for critical medical supplies and boosting the government’s ability to provide rapid and equitable vaccine distribution. Biden said one order would provide schools and childcare centers with “clear guidance and resources,” to reopen, though didn’t offer further detail.
International travelers arriving in the U.S. will soon be required to show a negative test before departure, and to quarantine on arrival, though specifics of that program aren’t clear.
The Biden administration acknowledges it needs Congress to authorize additional spending to make a breakthrough.
“This is a wartime undertaking,” Biden said. “I know these bold practical steps will not come cheaply, but failing to do so will cost us so much more dearly.”
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert who is serving as a coronavirus adviser, attended the event and was due to brief the press later that afternoon. Biden pledged to defer to scientists and to be transparent about any errors.
“We will level with you when we make a mistake we’ll straight up say what happened,” he said.
The director of his National Economic Council, Brian Deese, said earlier that “it’s critical that Congress act quickly on the president’s proposals and provide relief for families in need.” Republicans have already expressed misgivings about the price tag for Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill.
Another 4,415 people died in the U.S. from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the second-highest daily total yet. Roughly 186,000 new cases were recorded the same day. The rolling average number of new infections has declined since peaking on Jan. 10, but a new, more contagious strain of the virus threatens to fuel another wave of the illness.
The U.S. has administered at least 17.2 million doses of vaccine so far, or about 5 doses per 100 people, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. That trails countries like the U.K and Israel, but outpaces others including Germany, Italy and Canada.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.