WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden is slated to deliver a Thanksgiving address to the nation seeking to unify Americans in the face of the coronavirus pandemic as experts warn of a possible spike in cases resulting from the holiday.
Biden’s transition team said the president-elect will “discuss the shared sacrifices Americans are making this holiday season and say that we can and will get through the current crisis together.” His remarks come as COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide, with the nation averaging 165,000 new virus cases per day as of Tuesday, up more than 70% in two weeks, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Hospitalizations, deaths and the testing positivity rate are also up sharply as the nation approaches Thanksgiving, and public health experts have warned that the large family gatherings expected for the holiday are likely to extend and exacerbate the surge.
Biden has said turning the tide of the pandemic will be the top priority of his administration once he takes office in January, and he’s made multiple public remarks urging Americans to embrace mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines to combat the spread. The Democratic president-elect formed a coronavirus advisory board of scientists, doctors and public health experts, and he plans to establish a COVID-19 coordinator in the White House to lead his administration’s response.
This week, however, Biden focused beyond the crisis stateside and unveiled his national security team on Tuesday, including his nominees for secretary of state, director of national intelligence and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Drawing implicit contrasts with President Donald Trump throughout the event, Biden said that the team “reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.” He’s also expected to name Janet Yellen as treasury secretary in the coming weeks.
The president-elect’s team has also begun the next phase of its transition preparations after the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration declared Biden the “apparent winner” of the election, removing a major roadblock to cooperation between Biden’s staff and their counterparts in the Trump administration.
Trump has refused to concede the election, and his campaign continues to pursue legal challenges to the vote in some states. But the GSA’s ascertainment of Biden’s win means the transition can proceed regardless of the Republican president’s resistance.
Indeed, Biden said Tuesday in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that there’s been “immediate” outreach from Trump administration national security officials, and his team is working to arrange the classified briefings he’s afforded as president-elect, as well as a meeting with the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force to discuss its vaccine distribution plans.
“And I must say, the outreach has been sincere,” he said.
Biden said that despite the delay in his transition work, “I think we’re going to not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past.”
But for the next few days, Biden plans to spend some time focused on his family. He’s traveling with his wife, Jill, to Rehoboth Beach, the small Delaware beach town where the two have a vacation home, where they’ll host their family for Thanksgiving dinner. Biden is expected to stay through the weekend in Rehoboth, before returning to Wilmington for further work on the transition.