WILIMINGTON, Del. – If Joe Biden wins next week's election, he says he'll immediately call Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert. He'll work with governors and local officials to institute a nationwide mask-wearing mandate and ask Congress to pass a sweeping spending bill by the end of January to address the coronavirus and its fallout.
That alone would mark a significant shift from President Donald Trump, who has feuded with scientists, struggled to broker a new stimulus deal and reacted to the recent surge in U.S. virus cases by insisting the country is “rounding the turn.”
But Biden would still face significant political challenges in combating the worst public health crisis in a century. He will encounter the limits of federal powers when it comes to mask requirements and is sure to face resistance from Republicans who may buck additional spending.
“There are no magic wands,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins University and former Maryland state health department chief who recently briefed Biden on reopening schools during the pandemic. "It’s not like there’s an election, and then the virus beats a hasty retreat.”
Biden's handling of the coronavirus is taking on new urgency as cases spike around the country. Average deaths per day nationwide are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.
Meanwhile, a fresh outbreak of cases at the White House among Vice President Mike Pence's staff has revived concerns about the impact of the virus on the government.
The early days of a Biden administration would be consumed by a pandemic response.
“I’m here to tell you we can and will get control of this virus,” Biden said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Georgia. “As president, I will never wave the white flag of surrender.”