Biden urges Americans to wear masks: ‘Not a political statement’

Biden stresses that mask wearing remains 'the most potent weapon' to combat the coronavirus pnademic

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President-elect Joe Biden says that wearing a mask remains “the most potent weapon” against the coronavirus pandemic, and emphasizes that “a mask is not a political statement.”

In a speech Monday in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., after he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with their newly named COVID-19 transition advisory board, Biden urged Americans to wear masks amid a surge in coronavirus cases, but he did not give any new details regarding a possible national mask mandate.


Biden stressed, “We know the single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID is wear a mask.” And pointing to recent comments from the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the president-elect noted that until a vaccine is in production, “A mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus.”

President-elect Joe Biden listens during a meeting with Biden's COVID-19 advisory council, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Joe Biden listens during a meeting with Biden's COVID-19 advisory council, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Biden spoke as the nation’s death toll since the pandemic swept the nation in the late winter and early spring neared 230,000, and with the number of new cases on Monday topping 10 million Americans. The country recorded more than 100,000 new cases on Sunday, making it the fifth highest day of new cases since pandemic began.

“I won’t be president until Jan. 20 but message today to everyone is this - it doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view.

We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives, American lives,” Biden highlighted.

“I implore you, wear a mask. Do it for yourself. Do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling country together,” the president-elect added.


President Trump avoided wearing a mask in public until July and has resisted a national mandate, like some Democrats have called for. At September’s first presidential debate, Trump once again mocked Biden for wearing a mask, saying that “I don’t wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

On Monday, Biden emphasized, “I want to be very clear, the goal of mask wearing is not to make your life less comfortable or take something away from you. It’s to give something back to all of us — a normal life. Our goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible and masks are critical in doing that.”

He noted, “It won’t be forever but that’s how we’ll get our nation back, back up to speed economically, so we can go back to celebrating birthdays and holidays together, so we attend sporting events together. So we can get back to the lives and connections we shared before the pandemic.”

And Biden highlighted that the election's over and "it is time to put aside partisanship and the rhetoric designed to demonize one another. It’s time to end the politicization of basic, responsible, public health steps like mask wearing and social distancing."

Last month, Biden said that if he was elected, he’d gather the nation’s governors and ask them to urge residents in their states to wear masks in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden, speaking at a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC News, acknowledged that as president “you can’t mandate a mask.”

But the former vice president said at the time that “you can go to every governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them, as president and say, ‘Ask people to wear a mask. Everybody knows.”

Biden added that if some governors don’t move to implement mask requirements, he said, “Then I go to every mayor, I go to every councilman, every local official, and say, ‘Mandate the mask.’”

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The president-elect on Monday didn’t give any details on a possible national mandate, but he did say that his COVID-19 transition advisory board will “listen and work in cooperation with governors and local leaders of both parties who are fighting this virus in their communities at this very day. There is so much good work happening at state and local levels across the country, governors, mayors – they’re stepping up. The advisory board will listen and learn lessons from their experience.”

Biden said the panel would assemble “a blueprint that we can put in place” and that “this group will advise on detail plans, build on a bedrock of science.”

He also said that besides working to distribute a vaccine once it’s approved, he’d push to make rapid testing more widely available and ramp up production of personal protection equipment (PPE) for those on the front lines of the fight against the virus.

“I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around once we’re sworn in on Jan. 20,” the president-elect stressed.

Biden was cautiously optimistic regarding the promising vaccine announcement Monday from Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech.

Biden called it "positive news" but cautioned that the expectation is the FDA will run a process of rigorous reviews and approvals, and the process must also be grounded in science and fully transparent so the American people can have every confidence that any approved vaccine is safe and effective."

And he highlighted that "at the same time, it's clear that this vaccine, even if approved, will not be widely available for many months yet to come."