Biden Calls for ‘Wartime’ Covid Fight as Republicans Oppose Stimulus Package

Date: 2021-01-22 17:33:46

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President Joe Biden warned the nation to prepare for its darkest days in the yearlong pandemic, predicting that as many as 100,000 more Americans will die over the next month as he overhauls the federal coronavirus response and presses Congress for more aid.

But Biden’s plea for the nation to assume a “wartime” footing did not immediately sway a recalcitrant Congress, where Republican opposition to his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan only hardened. Even some liberal Democrats made clear they would not rubber-stamp the new president’s approach.

Highlighting the enormous stakes for his presidency, Biden unveiled the new administration’s 200-page blueprint for battling the pandemic on Thursday, his first full day in office. He emphasized that scientists and doctors would lead the effort — a rebuke of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who sidelined many of the government’s medical experts and instead surrounded himself with advisers who encouraged his disregard for public health precautions.

“Let me be very clear — things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said. “The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated.”

In a sign of the sharp reversal of course in handling an outbreak that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans, the Biden team returned to center stage Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s best-known infectious disease experts. Fauci spent a whirlwind Thursday appearing first via video conference for a World Health Organization meeting in the pre-dawn U.S. hours and then delivering remarks at a nationally televised White House briefing in the afternoon.

“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is and know that it’s, let the science speak, is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he said at the briefing. He was referring to the shift in working for Biden instead of Trump, whom he had occasionally contradicted before the former president shunted him aside for more agreeable advisers.

In addition to his national strategy, Biden signed a series of executive orders that would impose testing and mask requirements for travelers, produce federal guidance to reopen schools and bolster domestic manufacturing of supplies to combat the virus. He was flanked by a new team of scientists and doctors, including Fauci, who he said would help the U.S. response from here on out.

Still, hurdles abound. Much of what Biden needs requires new funding, such as $20 billion for vaccines included in his stimulus plan. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden’s proposal was “designed” to draw Republican support, though there is no sign of it so far.

While deaths from Covid-19 continue to mount, including 4,400 on Wednesday alone, the second-most ever, Fauci said there are signs the U.S. outbreak may have again plateaued. Case numbers and hospitalizations have declined from record highs in the past week.

But he added that the administration is concerned about new strains of the virus, particularly in South Africa and Brazil, that appear more transmissible and resistant to treatment and may even be less susceptible to current vaccines.

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