In his first interview since winning in November, President-elect Joe Biden spoke with CNN on Thursday, and revealed some of his plans for curtailing the coronavirus pandemic. One of the steps he has in mind is calling for Americans to wear face masks for at least 100 days. Starting after his inauguration, Biden plans to ask people to mask up for as long as possible until vaccines can be more widely distributed. The president-elect hasn’t announced any information about if it would be enforced, or how, but for now, it’s a call to action.
“Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction," Biden told Jake Tapper. Still, Biden’s COVID-19 strategy is markedly different from outgoing President Donald Trump’s — who has repeatedly denied the severity of the disease’s spread and frequently insisted it will simply go away.
While details about the 100-day mask plan are scarce, here's what we know so far: Biden’s call for Americans to wear masks would begin following his inauguration, after he’s officially been sworn in as president. So far, the move has been welcomed by medical experts, including members sitting on his coronavirus advisory board. "President-elect Biden, and his leadership and listening to scientists, believe that if we all wore our masks for 100 days, we would have a significant reduction in the transmission of the virus. I think it would have a huge impact," Rick Bright, who was formerly a vaccine expert within the Trump administration and is now one of Biden’s board members, told CNN.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost infectious disease expert, also weighed in to praise Biden’s 100-day plan. “He just wants to get — and it’s a good idea — uniform,” Fauci said. “He’s saying, ‘Hey, folks, trust me. Everybody for 100 days.’ Now, it might be that after that, we still are going to need it. But he just wants it, everybody for a commitment for 100 days. And I discussed that with him, and I told him I thought that was a good idea.” This comes after Dr. Fauci accepted Biden’s offer to become the chief medical adviser and to remain the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — a position he has held since 1984, spanning six administrations.
There are no other details about how the request for mask-wearing will work in so far as regulation, or recommendations for masks both indoors and outdoors. However, the president-elect seems determined to decrease COVID-19 cases at all costs.
Biden had previously endorsed a nationwide mask requirement, but he’s also acknowledged that it’s unclear what powers he has to “mandate everyone” to cover their faces with masks in public. As the spread worsens by the minute — with the United States topping 14 million cases and setting a new record for deaths yesterday — the Biden Administration’s action and willingness to take the pandemic seriously will be a welcome change from the previous administration's approach.