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Biden implores Americans to set aside differences and wear masks

Biden implores Americans to set aside differences and wear masks
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President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit Protect our world: How the Biden administration can save lives and economies worldwide MORE on Monday implored every American to put aside political differences and wear masks.

"A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling the country together,"  Biden said during a somber address that acknowledged the COVID-19 crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better.

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

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The speech followed a briefing from Biden's newly-appointed coronavirus advisory board, which he said will advise on plans "built on a bedrock of science."  

There are now 10 million COVID infections in the U.S., which is averaging almost 1,000 deaths a day. The country reported more than 103,000 new cases on Sunday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and the numbers are moving quickly upward.

It took just ten days for the U.S. to move from 9 million to 10 million cases. It took more than three months for the country to go from no cases to 1 million in late April.

Biden noted that projections show there could be upwards of an additional 200,000 deaths before a vaccine can be made widely available.

"It doesn't matter who you voted for.. it doesn't matter your party. We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months," Biden said.

Biden's speech came hours after Pfizer announced that late-stage clinical trial data show that its vaccine candidate is over 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

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Biden welcomed the news, but emphasized it will be many months before any vaccine is widely available. 

"We are still facing a dark winter," Biden said, adding that "there's a need for bold action to fight this pandemic."

Biden also said he would be investing in a "corps of contact tracers who will track and curb this disease.”

Contact tracing is one of the most basic tools available to public health officials, but it has not been widely scaled up during the pandemic. Some experts think it's too late, and cases are increasing too rapidly to be able to contact trace effectively.

Biden's speech stands in stark contrast to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE.

Top health officials, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, have said wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping physically distant are the best ways to slow the spread of the virus.

But Trump has refused to wear a mask and has mocked Biden for doing so. He even phoned Redfield directly to contradict his congressional testimony about the efficacy of mask wearing.

Biden's speech also followed the news that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonBen Carson says he's 'out of the woods' after being 'extremely sick' with COVID-19 Ben Carson says he used unproven COVID-19 treatment recommended by MyPillow CEO Chelsea Clinton blames Trump for Secret Service officers in quarantine MORE has been diagnosed with COVID-19, becoming the latest high-ranking Trump administration official to contract the virus.

Carson attended a White House gathering on election night last week, where dozens of guests mingled and few wore masks or observed social distancing.

Several White House staff members, including chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship House Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names MORE, have since tested positive for the virus.