Washington — President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to resist surrendering to the "fatigue" of the coronavirus pandemic and come together with the shared goal of defeating the virus, echoing calls of public health officials who are calling for the nation to scale down their Thanksgiving celebrations amid the surge incases nationwide.
"I know the country has grown weary of the fight, but we need to remember we're at war with a virus — not with each other," he said. "This is the moment where we need to steel our spines, redouble our efforts, and recommit ourselves to the fight. Let's remember — we are all in this together."
Mr. Biden said he will be forgoing his own big Thanksgiving celebration this year, instead spending the holiday in Delaware with his wife, Jill Biden, daughter and son-in-law, to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
"We all have a role to play in beating this crisis. The federal government has vast powers to combat this virus. And I commit to you I will use all those powers to lead a national coordinated response," he said. "But the federal government can't do it alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save a life."
Mr. Biden's remarks come as the nation is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases, leading public health officials to urge Americans to limit their holiday gatherings to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States is nearing 12.7 million, and the death toll surpassed 261,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 88,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and cases are increasing in dozens of states.
The president-elect spoke directly to the families who have lost loved ones this year and reflected on his own experiences grappling with loss during the holiday season. Mr. Biden's first wife and daughter died in a car crash in 1972, and his son Beau Biden died in 2015.
"The empty chair, the silence. It takes your breath away," he said. "It's hard to care. It's hard to give thanks. It's hard to look forward. And it's so hard to hope. I understand. I will be thinking and praying for each and every one of you at our Thanksgiving table because we've been there."
Mr. Biden noted that in the past year, the pandemic has "divided us, angered us, and set us against one another," and acknowledged the nation is facing a "long, hard winter." But he urged the American people to unify around defeating the pandemic.
"Hang on. Don't let yourself surrender to the fatigue," he said. "I know we can — and we will — beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war."
The president-elect also rejected the politicization of mitigation measures like mask-wearing, stressing that guidelines from public health experts are based solely on science.
"I believe that this grim season of division and demonization will give way to a year of light and unity," he said. "Why do I think so? Because America is a nation not of adversaries, but of neighbors. Not of limitation, but of possibility. Not of dreams deferred, but of dreams realized. I've said it many times: This is a great country and we are a good people. This is the United States of America."
Echoing warnings from public health experts, Mr. Biden has said Americans are facing a dark winter, even as three pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have reported positive late-stage trial results for their COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer, which is developing its vaccine with German partner BioNTech, said Friday it is asking federal regulators to allow emergency use of its coronavirus vaccine.
Shortly after he was declared the projected winner of the presidential race, Mr. Bidena coronavirus advisory board tasked with guiding him and Harris through the pandemic, and the transition's agency review teams have reached out to each relevant agency and the White House to request briefings on matters related to COVID-19, and Operation Warp Speed and vaccine distribution, in particular, Kate Bedingfield, a senior adviser to Biden transition, told reporters Wednesday.
Contact with federal agencies, and the formal transition process, began after the head of the General Services AdministrationMr. Biden the apparent winner of the election Monday, a step that unlocked access to $6.3 million, government facilities and agency staff. President Trump also agreed to allow Mr. Biden to begin receiving the President's Daily Brief, a daily summary of high-level intelligence.
The president-elect and vice president-elect are expected to receive their first President's Daily Brief on Monday, Jen Psaki, a Biden transition adviser told reporters Wednesday.
Mr. Biden is also set to announce new members of his economic team next week and more Cabinet nominees in December.
In the run-up to Thanksgiving, the federal government's top scientists and doctors urged the American people to stay home and limit their travel for the holidays.
"A sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.