North America

Joe Biden warns of 'dark winter' ahead as the US shatters more coronavirus records

President-elect Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes and received a much higher proportion of the mail-in votes than Donald Trump. Source: Getty Images North America

More than 213,830 new cases and 2,861 deaths have been reported in one day in the US, with the death toll projected to surpass 3,000 per day.

US President-elect Joe Biden says a "grim" jobs report shows the nation's economic recovery is stalling and warns the "dark winter" ahead will exacerbate the pain unless the Congress passes a coronavirus relief bill immediately.

"The situation requires urgent action," Mr Biden said in a statement on Friday. "Americans need help and they need it now."

A government report earlier in the day showed the labour market slowing in November amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.

More than 213,830 new cases and 2861 deaths were reported on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

With US COVID-19 hospitalisations also at record levels, several experts project the death toll will soon surpass 3000 per day.

Mr Biden, the Democratic former vice president, offered support for an emerging bipartisan package of around $A1.2 trillion that has drawn tentative support from members of both parties in Congress.

But he said the bill would be "just the start" and vowed to press for additional relief once he takes office in January.

The president-elect has focused heavily on the pandemic and economy during the transition, after a campaign in which he made President Donald Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus a central theme.

He is expected to name Jeff Zients, a co-chair of his transition and a former Obama administration economic aide, as his coronavirus "czar" to co-ordinate the government's pandemic response.

Mr Zients would also oversee an ambitious vaccine distribution effort, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Earlier this week, Mr Biden unveiled his economic team, led by his nominee for Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence was visiting Georgia on Friday, where he was receiving a briefing on the pandemic at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr Pence will then attend a rally with Republican US senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face January runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.

Mr Trump, a Republican who has still refused to concede to Mr Biden, is scheduled to headline a rally with Perdue and Loeffler on Saturday.

Mask mandates

Mr Biden has also promised a new national strategy that will impose mask mandates where he will have authority, such as federal buildings and for interstate travel, once he takes over for departing Mr Trump on 20 January.

Beyond the mandate, he urged people to voluntarily wear masks, seeking to counter lax public discipline to date and Trump's own timid endorsement of mask-wearing.

"On the first day I'm inaugurated ... I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask, just 100 days to mask, not forever, 100 days," Mr Biden told CNN on Thursday.

"And I think we'll see a significant reduction if we incur that - if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably."

A file photo of Joe Biden during the US presidential campaign.
A file photo of Joe Biden during the US presidential campaign.
AP

Two promising vaccines could soon receive emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration, and some 20 million Americans could be vaccinated this year, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said on Friday.

As soon as the FDA approves a vaccine, "I will be first in line and I will encourage my family to take this vaccine", Mr Hahn said.

Mr Biden said he would be happy to get vaccinated publicly, as former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have pledged, in order to boost public confidence and persuade vaccine sceptics.

Other public figures have followed, including best-selling novelist Stephen King.

"As a kid of five or six, I lined up with other little people to get the Polio Vaccine. As a man of 73, I'll line up for the COVID-19 Vaccine as soon as I'm told it's time," Mr King said on Twitter.

The US government's first shipment of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses is expected to be shared by states and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense.

But it will fall far short of protecting high priority groups such as healthcare workers, a Reuters analysis has found.

Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on Friday he expected to see another surge in infections two or three weeks after the 26 November Thanksgiving holiday.

"We really have to intensify our public health measures," he said.

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Mr Fauci also said he has accepted Mr Biden's offer to be his chief medical adviser, as well as keep his current position.

US cases since the start of the pandemic surpassed 14 million on Thursday and more than 100,000 people were hospitalised.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would impose strict new stay-at-home orders to be triggered on a region-by-region basis when less than 15 per cent of intensive care unit capacity is available.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania

 

 

 

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