HHS nominee: Country is in a COVID-19 'nosedive'

President Biden's Health and Human Services nominee Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHHS unveils drug overdose prevention plan to boost accessibility to care The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue Ohio sues Biden over reversal of Trump-era abortion referral ban MORE said Sunday that the country was experiencing an uncontrolled spread of the virus.

"The plane in a nosedive. And we've got to pull it up," Becerra told CNN's Dana BashDana BashThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Manchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 MORE. "And you're not going to do that overnight. But we're going to pull it up. We have to pull it up. Failure is not an option."

Becerra said leadership on the federal level was necessary to ensure that the vaccine rollout and state efforts to control the virus were effective and handled smoothly.

"But first you have to rescue people, you have to rescue the economy," he said, adding: "President Biden made it clear: it won't happen overnight."

"We can't just tell the states, here's some PPE, some masks, here's some vaccines, now go do it," the HHS nominee added.

His comments came in response to questions about comments Biden made suggesting that there was little the U.S. could do to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic's trajectory in the coming months.

“There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months," Biden said Friday.

Biden's administration has pledged a more hands-on approach to battle the spread of COVID-19 in contrast to the Trump administration's largely state-centric approach to the distribution of vaccines.

During his first week in office, Biden signed a number of executive orders, including orders addressing the pandemic such as one requiring travelers to wear masks in airports.