(Headline USA) Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts if he becomes president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he’s pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose has shown disregard for mask-wearing, after “experts” such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC have issued conflicting directives at difference times about the efficacy of the practice.
Biden has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty” and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce.
“On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction” in the virus, Biden said.
He reiterated his call for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a coronavirus aid bill and expressed support for a $900 billion compromise bill that a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced this week.
“That would be a good start. It’s not enough,” he said, adding, “I’m going to need to ask for more help.”
Biden has said his transition team is working on its own coronavirus relief package, and his aides have signaled they plan for that to be their first legislative push.
The former vice president also said he asked Fauci to stay on in his administration, “in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.
He said he’s asked Fauci to be a “chief medical adviser” as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot.”
Regarding a coronavirus vaccine, Biden offered begrudging credit for the work Trump’s administration has done in expediting the development of a vaccine but said that planning the distribution properly will be “critically important.”
“It’s a really difficult but doable project, but it has to be well planned,” he said, ignoring plans Trump has already established.
Part of the challenge the Biden administration will face in distributing the vaccine will be instilling public confidence in it, after he and running mate Kamala Harris politicized the trustworthiness of it during the presidential campaign. Biden now says he’d be “happy” to get inoculated in public to assuage any concerns about its efficacy and safety. Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they’d also get vaccinated publicly to show that it’s safe.
“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden said, ignoring his own past demagoguery about the issue, adding that “it matters what a president and the vice president do.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.