By Robert Schroeder
President-elect Joe Biden pledged on Tuesday to distribute 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, in one part of a three-pronged strategy to fight the pandemic.
That would mean 50 million Americans would be vaccinated. The vaccines closest to getting emergency-use authorization from the government require two doses.
Speaking in Wilmington, Del., Biden also said he would look to have as many schools open during his first 100 days as possible, and he repeated a promise for requiring masks where he can, such as in federal buildings.
“My first 100 days won’t end the COVID-19 virus,” Biden said. “I can’t promise that.” But he said he was “absolutely convinced we can change course.” Biden called on Congress to “fully fund” distribution of vaccines “to all corners of the country.”
Biden spoke as he introduced his health team, including Xavier Becerra, currently the attorney general of California, to lead Health and Human Services; Dr. Vivek Murthy as nominee for surgeon general — a post Murthy held in the Obama administration; and infectious-disease expert Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The nominations of Becerra and Murthy will require Senate confirmation.
Biden will also make Dr. Anthony Fauci his chief medical adviser on COVID, as the expert continues as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Jeff Zients will be coordinator of COVID-19 response.
Biden said he developed the goals in consultation with Fauci.
Underscoring the urgency of the Biden team’s task, the president-elect spoke as the U.S. suffered its deadliest week from the coronavirus since the pandemic broke out. The nation averaged 201,756 cases a day in the last week and a record of 2,249 deaths a day, topping the previous seven-day average death toll recorded in April.
Biden said the U.S. is “at risk of becoming numb to [the virus’s] toll on all of us,” and called on Americans to help by wearing masks.
U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.36% on Tuesday were higher as investors weighed record COVID hospitalizations and developments on stimulus talks in Washington against incrementally positive developments on vaccines.
See: Market Snapshot .