President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a three-part plan to take on the COVID-19 pandemic in his first 100 days in the White House.
The plan includes calling for everyone to wear a mask during that period, completing 100 million vaccine shots, and opening a "majority" of schools.
Biden said he developed the objectives in consultation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious disease who has already played a key role in the US response to the pandemic. Biden tapped Fauci to be his chief medical advisor.
"My first 100 days won't end the COVID-19 virus, I can't promise that. But we did not get into this mess quickly, we're not going to get out of it quickly — it's going to take some time," Biden said during a press conference. "But I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."
Biden said he will sign an executive order on "day one" to require masks wherever the law allows him to. That includes in federal buildings as well as interstate travel on planes, trains, and buses. The president-elect said he would be working with governors and mayors to do the same in their states and cities.
"We need your help," Biden added, speaking directly to Americans. "Wear a mask for just 100 days. It's the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and death. Help yourself, your family, and your community. Whatever your politics or point of view, mask up for 100 days once we take office."
Biden said wearing a mask is not a "political statement" but a "patriotic act."
The president-elect said his administration wants to see "at least" 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots "into the arms of the American people" in his first 100 days, prioritizing people who are most at risk.
"This will be one of the hardest, most costly operational challenges in our nation's history," Biden said, before calling on Congress to take immediate steps to help fund vaccine distribution.
"We're going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of the country, to everyone," Biden said. "Without urgent action by this Congress this month to put sufficient resources into vaccine distribution and manufacturing ... there's a real chance that after an early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall."
Biden warned that if Congress does not take swift action then "millions of Americans may wait months longer to get the vaccine." He went on to say that additional efforts would be needed from Congressional lawmakers in this regard in the new year.
The president-elect also said that getting children back in school and keeping them there should be a "national priority."
"If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff; if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days," Biden said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact across the US. As of Tuesday, there have been more than 15 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US and over 285,000 reported fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.