President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday implored Americans not to travel and gather with family during the holiday season as coronavirus cases surge across the country.
“You cannot be traveling during these holidays, as much as you want to,” Biden, speaking from Wilmington, Del., told a group of workers and small business owners during a virtual briefing.
Biden explained that, for the first time, he kept his Thanksgiving last week small, spending it with his wife and Jill and their daughter and son-in-law who live in the areas. He said they saw everyone else “on Zoom.”
“Christmas is going to be a lot harder,” Biden said. “I don’t want to scare anybody here but understand the facts. We’re likely to lose another 250,000 people dead between now and January … because people aren’t paying attention.”
Public health officials have dissuaded Americans from traveling or gathering in large numbers during the holiday season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Wednesday that the U.S. could see another 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the next three months if people do not take heed of mitigation measures like mask-wearing and social distancing. The coronavirus has already infected over 13.8 million Americans and killed over 270,000.
Biden’s warning contrasted sharply with the mixed messaging coming out of the White House, where President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are continuing to host indoor holiday parties despite the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 himself in October, has regularly minimized the danger of the virus. Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale said Tuesday that he believed Trump’s lack of public empathy on the virus cost him the election.
Biden has made the coronavirus a central focus of his election campaign and now his preparations to take office in January.
During the virtual roundtable on Wednesday, Biden spoke with four Americans — a school crossing guard, restaurant group owner, arena server and stagehand — to receive input on their financial struggles as his transition team develops a plan to address the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Biden urged Congress to come together and pass a bipartisan relief measure during the lame-duck period and said he would unveil a relief proposal upon taking office.
“I don’t want you giving up hope,” Biden told the participants. “We’re going to get through this.”
“It’s going to be hard as hell the next 50 to 70 days unless the House acts in some way, the Senate acts,” Biden continued.