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Nov. 19, 2020, 6:31 p.m. EST

Pence acknowledges rising coronavirus cases but calls U.S. more prepared than ever to fight pandemic

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By Robert Schroeder

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday the U.S. is more prepared than ever to fight the coronavirus, even as he acknowledged rising cases and hospitalizations related to the pandemic.

Speaking at the White House, the vice president said, “America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” as he cited the “help on the way” from vaccines in development.

“We could well be just a matter of a few short weeks away from a vaccine being available across this country for the most vulnerable among us, and for those that are caring for them in our hospitals and our clinics,” Pence said.    

Pence spoke at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, the first in months. It came as U.S. deaths from the coronavirus passed the quarter-million mark and infections continued surging across the country.

Coronavirus update: U.S. coronavirus deaths surpass 250,000, and hospitalizations reach another record

Pence departed the briefing room without taking questions:

President-elect Joe Biden, meanwhile, has warned that the Trump administration’s refusal to recognize him as the winner of the Nov. 3 election may delay the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine, and said “more people may die” if the White House doesn’t cooperate with the transition.

“Unfortunately, my administration hasn’t been able to get everything we need,” Biden said during a videoconference Thursday with the National Governors Association’s leadership team, which includes five Republicans and four Democrats.

Read: Biden says Trump administration’s failure to recognize his election win may delay rollout of coronavirus vaccine

President Donald Trump is continuing a push to overturn the election outcome, as deadlines loom for key states to certify their results, and no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged.

Now see: Dates to watch as Trump continues legal fight to overturn the presidential election result

Speaking at the same briefing, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the government was asking all Americans to redouble their efforts to be vigilant about stopping the spread of the virus by wearing masks and embracing social distancing.

“We need all of us to go all in,” said Redfield.

Now read: ‘We’re alarmed’: CDC issues blunt statement against travel this Thanksgiving .

U.S. equity benchmarks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.84% closed higher Thursday, as investors were cheered by hopes that lawmakers still could pass a relief package to limit the economic damage wrought by the pandemic.

See: Market Snapshot

There is also progress on a vaccine. Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +2.32% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +3.17% said Wednesday that their vaccine candidate was 95% effective, and Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +1.73% said Monday its candidate was 94.5% effective.

On Thursday, AstraZeneca PLC  /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -1.02%  said the experimental vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford  showed a robust immune response  in older adults.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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