Joe Biden’s top coronavirus advisor says there is no plan for a national lockdown as daily infections hit a new record and President Donald Trump remained publicly disengaged from the pandemic.
The US has topped 150,000 new daily cases for the first time, doubling in three weeks to set a record as the president was still missing in action and tweeting about a “Rigged Election!”.
With more than 100,000 new daily cases for more than a week, state and local officials are urging people to step up mask wearing and social distancing, as they brace for what epidemiologists worry is the beginning of a tumultuous period.
Mr Trump hasn’t answered questions on the pandemic since before Election Day but the White House said he was receiving his first post-election coronavirus briefing on Operation Warp Speed – a plan to accelerate the COVID vaccine.
Meanwhile the head of Mr Biden’s coronavirus advisory board rejected that the entire country could be shut down after after another Biden advisor made the public suggestion.
Vivek Murthy, a former US surgeon general leading Mr Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, said doctors have learned a lot about how COVID spreads and what steps to reduce risk are effective.
“We’re not in a place where we’re saying shut the whole country down. We got to be more targeted,” Dr Murthy said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.
Another member of Biden’s COVID-19 team, Michael Osterholm, suggested in a Yahoo Finance interview that the country could cover individual companies’ and local governments’ losses for a four- to six-week lockdown to drive numbers down.
Dr Osterholm clarified in a later interview with ABC that he did not discuss a lockdown with anyone on the advisory board and he did not think there was a US consensus for it.
“Nobody’s going to support it,” he said.
Mr Trump’s aides say the president has shown little interest in the growing crisis even as new confirmed cases skyrocket and hospital intensive care units in parts of the country near capacity.
The president remains angry that Pfizer’s announcement about the vaccine’s 90 per cent efficacy in trials was made after Election Day. Pfizer said it did not purposely withhold trial results.
Public health experts worry that his refusal to take aggressive action or coordinate with the Biden team will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.
US media are also reporting that Mr Trump’s whirlwind of campaign rallies in the last months of the election campaign had left dozens of secret service agents either infected or self-isolating.
Mr Trump held about 50 rallies since mid-October, including in states that were COVID hotspots, which required dozens of Secret Service security staff.
The president has consistently played down the pandemic, which has killed more than 240,000 Americans and infected more than 10 million people in the US.
Instead Mr Trump’s Twitter habit has almost exclusively in recent days been used to rage over the election results and spread unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.
On Saturday morning (AEST) he tweeted about the “Rigged Election!”, after a day earlier claiming the electronic voting system had “deleted” nearly 3 million Trump votes.
For years the Dems have been preaching how unsafe and rigged our elections have been. Now they are saying what a wonderful job the Trump Administration did in making 2020 the most secure election ever. Actually this is true, except for what the Democrats did. Rigged Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2020
It prompted US election officials to release a joint public statement insisting it was the most secure election ever and there was no evidence of any voting system being compromised.
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalising the result,” the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees said.
Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met virtually with his new coronavirus advisers this week, and Mr Biden delivered remarks warning Americans that “the challenge before us right now is still immense and growing.”
“We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives, American lives,” Mr Biden said in a speech this week.
“Please, I implore you, wear a mask.”