“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” he said.
The growing death toll reflects the challenge facing the new president, whose first hours in office were spent instituting numerous measures to address the pandemic, including a mask mandate and safe distancing on all federal grounds, a halt on the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and the revival of a White House unit on global health security and biodefense.
Biden’s first full day in office largely revolved around addressing the pandemic. He delivered remarks in the afternoon, unveiling a national strategy to respond to the pandemic — with a focus on expanding testing and vaccinations — and signing a slew of additional executive orders related to the crisis.
Biden’s rollout strategy to combat the pandemic underlined what he has defined as his top priority. But his remarks also signaled a stark contrast and departure from the previous administration’s efforts toward the handling of the pandemic crisis, which largely deferred to each state to develop its own plans for testing and other precautionary measures.
“For the past year, we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed,” he said. “And we have seen the tragic cost of that failure. Three- to four-thousand deaths per day to date.”
His strategy, Biden said, “will be based on science, not politics.”
Biden’s criticism of former president Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic was echoed by the new administration’s chief medical adviser, Fauci, who spoke bluntly Thursday of his disapproval of the past administration’s actions.
“It is clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding Hydroxychloroquine … that was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact,” he said in a press briefing. “It was really something that you didn’t feel like you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions.”
Fauci added that a guiding principle of the new administration in regards to the pandemic response is “if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess, just say you don’t know the answer,” which he described as “liberating.”
Biden’s national plans also include the creation of a Pandemic Testing Board that can help ramp up testing capacity, as The Post has reported. There are also plans to get more money to states that have pleaded for funding for testing and vaccination efforts.
But it would take moths to get shots in the arms of the majority of Americans, the president warned Thursday.
“While we increase vaccinations, we’re going to take steps necessary now to slow the spread of the disease as well,” he said, urging Americans to wear masks for the next 99 days.
The president has said he aims to get 100 million shots in arms in 100 days. As of Wednesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 14.2 million people have received at least an initial coronavirus vaccine dose.
As they take over the pandemic response, administration officials have also moved swiftly to signal a desire to reengage with the World Health Organization post-Trump.
The vice president spoke with the agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and in a tweet after the call, Tedros thanked Harris and Biden for “their commitment to @WHO & global health.”
Fauci made remarks to the U.N. health agency’s executive board meeting and broke with the preceding administration by praising the group’s leadership.
“I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global response to this pandemic,” he said by videoconference. “Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.”
Jacqueline Dupree and Sarah Dadouch contributed to this report.