Biden lays out COVID response plan, calls for unity

WILMINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden expressed optimism about what the next four years hold Monday, laying out a broad plan for combating COVID-19 and “building back better.”

Speaking to media at The Queen theater after a virtual roundtable with nine business and union executives, the president-elect again called for unity, urging Americans to put their differences aside and work to overcome the current crises. Citing his work under President Barack Obama in helping the nation crawl out of the Great Recession 11 years earlier, President-elect Biden expressed optimism about what the future holds.

“There’s so much we can do. The only way we do any of this is if we work together. I know we can do this,” he said.

The president-elect, who will be sworn in Jan. 20, promised widespread reforms to help Americans, ranging from child care to greater investment in clean energy to high-speed broadband internet for all to a $15 minimum wage. The Biden administration will only award government contracts to companies that make products in the United States, part of an effort to “make sure the future is made here in America,” he said.

He urged Congress to immediately approve COVID relief, noting the HEROES Act has been languishing in the Republican-controlled Senate after passing the House of Representatives six months ago.

The need for assistance is real and urgent, he emphasized, pointing to the millions of jobs lost and the many small businesses struggling due to the pandemic.

As he has many times, President-elect Biden called on Republicans to give him a chance and set aside political disagreements so they can respond to the moment.

“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control,” he told the audience.

President-elect Biden was critical of President Donald Trump, describing his unwillingness to concede the election as “embarrassing” and his skepticism about COVID as harmful and not based in reality.

The president’s refusal to work with the incoming administration on a transition is literally resulting in lives lost, he said. The General Services Administration has refrained from giving the president-elect intelligence briefings, as well as other assistance typically provided by an outgoing administration.

The nation needs to brace for a “dark winter,” he said, pointing to the rising coronavirus cases across the country. Americans hoping to see family for the holidays should gather in groups of no more than 10 and remain socially distanced while wearing masks, President-elect Biden said, noting he and his wife, Jill, were figuring out which family members to spend time with over Thanksgiving earlier in the day.

The Democrat bashed Republicans who have resisted face coverings while singling out several GOP governors who have imposed mask mandates as providing responsible leadership in what he termed a “war” against COVID.

“There’s nothing macho about not wearing a mask,” the president-elect said.

He was preceded by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who briefly highlighted the ways COVID is hitting minorities especially hard. Americans can fight the pandemic and safely reopen the economy only if all forces are marshaled against coronavirus, she said.

“We don’t have a moment to waste,” she said.