Biden's campaign featured harsh criticisms of former President Trump's approach to COVID-19, and in his first speech as president-elect he said his administration's work "begins with getting COVID under control." On Friday, however, he indicated that the trajectory of the pandemic can't be changed in the coming months, no matter what Americans do.
"If we fail to act, there will be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on, because there's nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months," Biden said.
The idea that nothing will change the pandemic drew confusion and ire from figures in politics and the media.
"Haven't we been told for months that restrictions and mandates were necessary to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months?" former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian, tweeted.
Fox News contributor and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, criticized Biden for his fatalist sentiment.
"Already giving up," Chaffetz tweeted. "Banner headlines in all major media outlets? Nope. Most will bury this but it is a stunning admission. Biden says 'nothing we can do' to change pandemic 'trajectory' in coming months."
National Review's David Harsanyi said the idea that there was nothing that could be done was "the opposite" of what Biden said during his campaign.
On Sunday, Biden's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra tried to clarify the president's message.
"I believe President Biden made it very clear, the plane is in a nosedive, and we gotta pull it up. And you’re not going to do that overnight," Becerra told "State of the Union" host Dana Bash on CNN. "But we're gonna pull it up, we have to pull it up. Failure's not an option here, and so we will."
When asked if that means he believes the administration can indeed change the pandemic's trajectory, Becerra reiterated that it would not happen "overnight," but said that progress is possible if people work together.
"We've got to make sure we're coordinated," he said. "We can't just tell the states, 'Here's some PPE, some masks, here's some vaccines, now go do it.' No, no. When we hand them over, we stay with them and provide resources to make it happen."
Becerra then claimed that the simple act of everyone wearing face masks would be enough to make an impact.