But as he answered questions from reporters on Friday, Biden said he wouldn’t make vaccines and masks mandatory.
And the president-elect, who spoke in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., called Friday’s unemployment report “grim.” He urged Congress and President Trump to immediately pass COVID-19 relief measures and warned that “the future will be very bleak” without such a deal.
Biden was asked if taking the vaccine should be mandated for Americans.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory, I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory, but I would do everything in my power — it’s like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide,” Biden replied.
And he vowed that he’d “do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing and when they do it, demonstrate that it matters. That’s why I said in my inaugural speech I’m going to ask people to commit to 100 days to wear a mask.”
The president-elect predicted that “if people do it for 100 days in the middle of what will still be a raging crisis, and the vaccine is able to be distributed, they’re going to see deaths drop off the edge. They’re going to see hundreds of thousands of people not getting sick. And my hope is they’ll then be inclined to say ‘it’s worth the patriotic duty to go ahead and protect other people.’”
Biden emphasized that when it comes to distributing the vaccines across the country, “there’s a lot more that has to be done.”
He said that Trump administration officials have “clued us in our their plan on how they plan to distribute the actual vaccine to the various states but there is no detailed plan that we’ve seen anywhere as to how do you get the vaccine out of a container and into an injection syringe into somebody’s arm. And it’s going to be very difficult for that to be done and it’s a very expensive proposition.”
Biden noted that he agrees with the priorities “laid out so far” by the Trump administration that those who would receive the vaccines first would be “first responders and those in nursing homes and in-home care, the first people on the list.”
But he added that “there has to be some equity in how this is distributed” as he stressed that officials have to figure out how to get the vaccine to minority communities hard hit by the pandemic. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Biden added.
And the president-elect touted that “I think that my taking the vaccine and people seeing me take that vaccine is going to give some confidence.”
Taking aim at President Trump, Biden argued that “it’s going to take some effort to rebuild confidence in science because it’s been so diminished in this administration thus far.”
More than 276,000 deaths throughout the country have been tied to the coronavirus since the pandemic swept the nation in February and March, with more than 14.2 million COVID-19 cases in total. There has been a surge in cases throughout much of the nation during the past month.
Speaking hours after the Labor Department reported that jobs increased by 245,000 in November, down from 610,000 in October, Biden described the report as “dire” and “grim.”
“It shows an economy that’s stalling,” he said.
But he said that if the government reacts now, “we can regain begin to regain momentum.” But Biden warned that “there’s no time to lose. Millions of people have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed. They’ve lost their health insurance or are in danger of losing their health insurance. One in every six renters is behind in rent. One in four small businesses can’t keep their doors open.”
Biden called on Congress and the president “to act and act now” and warned that “if Congress and President Trump fail to act by the end of December, 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits they rely on. Merry Christmas.”
“If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak. Americans need help and they need it now. And they need more to come early next year,” he added.
The president-elect said he was encouraged by a proposed $908 billion bipartisan framework in the Senate and said it showed that both parties can work together.
Bit Biden twice dodged questions on whether he’s talked yet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then-Vice President Biden and McConnell had a history of striking deals to avert fiscal catastrophes.
“McConnell knows me,” Biden noted. “He knows I’m straight as an arrow.”
Biden was also asked about pressure from Democrats to name a more diverse cabinet and administration.
“You’re going to see significant diversity,” Biden said. And he emphasized that he’ll name the “single most diverse cabinet…ever.”