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'It's Time for Science': Biden Unveils COVID-19 Plan

Biden plans to work with each state governor to implement mask mandates.EXPAND
Biden plans to work with each state governor to implement mask mandates.

Shortly after media networks called the election, President-elect Joe Biden released his plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Monday, Biden’s transition website announced that the former Democratic vice president would “listen to scientists” to beat COVID-19. This comes as the nation surpassed more than 100,000 coronavirus cases in a single day, and as Texas became the state with the highest cumulative count.

Biden will end the coronavirus like the Obama administration did with the Ebola crisis, said Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party. It will be “refreshing” to have a president who will listen to experts’ advice instead of family members and donors, he said.

“The contrast couldn’t be more clear between [President Donald] Trump’s chaotic response to the coronavirus and Biden’s calm and sensible one,” Rahman said. “It’s time for science and it’s time for doctors, and it’s time for people who know how to end these things to take the lead.”

But Biden's insistence on mask-wearing rubs many Republicans the wrong way. Trump frequently refuses to wear face coverings, even after he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

In October, the president mocked Biden for promising to “listen to the scientists” on how to end the coronavirus crisis, according to fact-checking website Snopes.com. Biden’s coronavirus task force will be made up entirely of health experts and doctors, according to The Washington Post.

Some Dallas politicians are celebrating Biden’s win. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, tweeted his support for the president-elect on Saturday.

“@JoeBiden is a strong empathetic leader who will be a President for everyone. I’m thankful that we will soon have have [sic] a federal partner who will follow the science and lead us in the battle against Covid 19!” Jenkins wrote.

The president-elect's COVID-19 proposal will ramp-up testing and personal protective equipment capacity, as well as provide evidence-based COVID-19 guidance. It also introduced Biden's version of a nationwide mask mandate and plans for vaccine distribution.

Biden will "call on"  each state's governor and local leadership to require masks, but the president-elect stopped short of issuing a federal mandate.

The plan's unveiling coincided with biopharmaceutical corporation Pfizer’s Monday announcement that it had created a vaccine that’s more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 transmissions.

Despite such medical breakthroughs, the simple act of wearing a mask in public can stop community spread, said Dr. Erin Carlson, associate clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at the University of Texas at Arlington. A national mask mandate could potentially save tens of thousands of lives.

“The way that you fight this disease and the way you prevent this disease, it has nothing to do with modern medicine,” Carlson said. “The way you prevent transmission is very simple: You wear a mask, you stay away from people.”

Monday, Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 1,248 new coronavirus cases and two deaths. Director Dr. Philip Huang said he’s “very concerned” about the region’s increase in new cases, adding that the hospital systems could see the highest number of COVID-19 patients since this summer, when they were nearing capacity.

“It’s important for everyone to be using the masks,” Huang said. “That’s one of the most effective things that we’ve seen.”

Trump has long derided mask-wearing, mocking Biden during the first presidential debate for consistently donning one. The president’s disdain for face coverings has appeared to influence his base: Just 26% of Trump voters reported they “always” wear one in public, compared with 66% of Biden voters, according to NBC News.

“Infectious disease has been with us for millennia, and it is up to us to do something to stop it. They don’t stop on their own,” Carlson said.

“An infectious disease has no allegiance to any American political party,” she continued. “It never has, and it never will.”

The public health community braced itself for devastating outbreaks in the world’s developing countries, Carlson said. But in places where mask-wearing is culturally accepted, such as in Kenya and South Africa, that hasn’t yet happened.

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America has an individualistic culture that doesn’t always lend itself to striving for the greater good, Carlson said. If U.S. citizens adopted certain behaviors that have been proven to slow coronavirus spread, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, the country could get the disease under control.

There is “unquestionable evidence” that masks work, Carlson said.

One study of 15 states and Washington, D.C., found that mask mandates prevented 230,000 to 450,000 cases from cropping up within the span of five weeks, she said. Applying the current 1% COVID-19 death rate means that 2,300 to 4,500 lives were saved.

“Yes, we can save people from dying when they get sick, but we can keep people from even getting sick,” Carlson said. “And that’s the point of public health. Public health seeks to prevent people from ever getting sick in the first place.”

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