© 2021 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The 'Darkest Days' Are Ahead Of Us, Biden Warns About COVID-19 Pandemic

President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on the pandemic Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on the pandemic Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.

Updated at 9:52 a.m. ET Wednesday

President-elect Joe Biden warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it gets better.

"Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us," Biden told reporters during a year-end news conference in Wilmington, Del.

He said that Americans, when united, could overcome the crisis, and he called the first vaccines being administered a good thing. But he noted that distribution of the vaccines is one of the biggest operational challenges the country has ever faced.

The House and Senate passed a $900 billion COVID-19 aid package late Monday after months of negotiations. Biden praised Congress for the bill, but he stressed it wasn't enough, especially considering it only would provide 10 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.

"It's going to take a lot longer than that" for the economy to recover, Biden said. He reiterated he would push for a bigger package when he is president, including for more direct payments to families as well as money for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing, and aid for state and local governments.

Biden's remarks came a day after he and his wife, Jill, received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. cases of the coronavirus are again on the rise, and the national death toll from the virus nears 320,000 lives lost. Biden has said he hopes in the first 100 days to oversee the distribution of 100 million shots of the vaccine.

On Tuesday, Biden thanked health care and front-line workers, and said his family usually has 25 people or so over for Christmas, "but not this year." "Like we did over Thanksgiving," we all have to care for each other by staying apart, Biden said. "I know it's hard."

Going after Trump on cyberattack

Biden also sharply criticized President Trump on the widespread cyberattack through the U.S. government. Cybersecurity experts have said the infiltration has all the hallmarks of Russian intelligence, but Trump has downplayed the severity of the hack and even said it could be China.

"Enough's enough," Biden said, calling Trump's efforts a failure and saying that he hadn't treated cybersecurity seriously.

"This assault happened on Donald Trump's watch when he wasn't watching," Biden charged, noting that Trump "still has the responsibility to defend America for the next four weeks, but, even if he does not take it seriously, I will."

Biden added about the attack: "It is a grave risk, and it continues. I see no evidence that it's under control."

He also said his team had not been briefed on the attack by the Pentagon.

A senior Department of Defense official said in a statement early Wednesday that Biden's remarks were "patently false," and that all together, the department has conducted 163 interviews and 181 requests for information with the Biden transition team.

No immediate immigration rollback

Biden said he had already begun discussing changes to immigration policy with counterparts in Mexico and Latin America.

But he said he would not roll back Trump's policies immediately, to avoid an influx of millions of people at the southern U.S. border.

Biden said changes would require funding, including for more asylum judges.

Biden still has Cabinet positions, such as attorney general, to fill.

The president-elect promised that another announcement would come Wednesday, though he didn't specify for which job.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.