President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE in a new interview said tackling the coronavirus pandemic will be his main priority upon taking office next month.
“It will be the first priority, the second priority and the third priority — to deal with COVID and bring down the spread and bring down the death rate,” Biden told The New York Times.
Biden, who has long cast curbing the coronavirus’s spread as his chief task, also said the current rate of infection is “staggering” and that the death toll is “going to be incredibly high” upon his inauguration in January.
The president-elect has already unveiled a slate of plans to try to curb the current spike in cases, including urging Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office.
His new remarks come as the country heads into what public health experts warn will be the most dangerous phase of the pandemic. The U.S. is routinely tallying 3,000 deaths per day, and officials expect there to be a sharp rise in cases following Christmas.
The rollout of two coronavirus vaccines presented a positive step toward ending the pandemic, but experts have said Americans should not stop adhering to health guidelines such as wearing a mask and social distancing. The vaccines are not expected to be widely available to the general public until late spring or early summer.
While large swaths of the public have been open to such measures, many are still reluctant to wear masks or avoid dangerous social gatherings. However, Biden expressed optimism that Americans will adhere to the practices, given the seriousness of the virus’s spread.
“There’s a new sense of urgency on the part of the public at large,” he told the Times. “The American public is being made painfully aware of the extent and damage and incredibly high cost of failing to take the kind of measures we’ve been talking about.”