Biden: Wearing a mask ‘not a political statement, but good way start pulling the country together’

Biden issued his call to protect each other on the same day he announced his coronavirus advisory panel and Pfizer announced major progress on a vaccine.

President-elect Joe Biden waves as he arrives Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater

President-elect Joe Biden waves as he arrives Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Joe Biden pivoted Monday from basking in the glow of defeating Donald Trump to tackling the coronavirus pandemic that he has accused the incumbent of fumbling.

Biden’s key message: Wear a mask to protect each other from infection, hospitalization and possibly death.

The Democrat from Delaware made his remarks from The Queen theater in Wilmington, where he and running mate Kamala Harris held a Zoom meeting with the coronavirus advisory board he appointed hours earlier.

Despite Trump’s pledge to contest the election results in several states, Biden emphasized that the election is “over” and that he is moving swiftly to curtail the pandemic and would be guided by “a bedrock of science.”

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He pointed out the devastating toll in the U.S., where more than 10 million people have been infected with COVID-19, the daily count in recent days has topped 120,000, and some 240,000 people have died. A worse surge is anticipated. “We’re facing a dark winter,’’ said Biden.

The president-elect also noted the promising announcement from Pfizer pharmaceuticals that its vaccine has proven to be 90% effective in clinical trials.

But Biden, who did not take questions or refer to Trump directly, stressed during his 10-minute address that any vaccine, once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, won’t be widely available to the public for at least a few months.

So, he held up a blue and white mask and implored the public to wear one for the foreseeable future. Trump, who contracted COVID-19 in October, has widely disparaged mask-wearing and held several campaign and White House events where supporters and guests did not wear them or socially distance. Biden wore a mask whenever he ventured out during the campaign.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view,’’ Biden said. “We can save thousands of lives if you wear a mask. Maybe save the life of the person who stocks your shelves. Maybe it saves the life of a member at your local place of worship. Maybe it saves the lives of one of your children’s teachers. Maybe it saves your life. A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling the country together.”

He said decisions in his administration will be guided by science and that he’s simply seeking to protect all Americans, regardless of whether they supported him or President Trump in last week’s election.

“The goal of mask-wearing is not to make your life less comfortable or take something away from you. It’s to give something back to all of us. A normal life,’’ Biden said.

“It won’t be forever, but that’s how we’ll get our nation back. Back up to speed economically. So we can go back to celebrating birthdays and holidays together. So we can attend sporting events together. So we can get back to the lives and connections we shared before the pandemic.”

Biden won’t take office until January 20 but said he wants his administration ready to implement anti-pandemic steps on day 1.

He also promised that vaccines and expanded testing will be free to Americans, and that extra steps will be taken to reach out to Black, Latino and other vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

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“The bottom line is,” Biden said, is that once he occupies the White House, “I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around.”

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