COVID-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke with health experts, including Dr. Vivek Murthy, at a Covid-19 briefing last month. 
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Even before the news on Saturday that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had defeated President Trump, Biden aides were already arranging for the first critical transition decisions to focus on health care and addressing the pandemic raging through the country, the central theme of his campaign in the final months.

“We’re not waiting to get the work done,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Friday night.

His aides have assembled an internal group of roughly two dozen health policy and technology experts to look at the development and delivery of a vaccine, improving health data and securing supply chains, among other issues.

Those expected to play a key health care role in a Biden administration include Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general under President Barack Obama, who has privately advised Mr. Biden for months on the pandemic and is expected to play a large public role as a face of the potential Democratic administration’s response to the virus, dispensing advice on mask-wearing and social distancing.

Mr. Trump will still have control of the nation’s health apparatus and the bully pulpit that comes with the Oval Office until Jan. 20 — a crucial period for the country’s outbreak, given that infections already have hit new highs and colder weather is driving more interactions indoors.

The president has largely shuttered the White House Coronavirus Task Force and doubled down on anti-science language, insisting that the country must fully reopen and repeatedly telling voters that the country is “rounding the corner” in the fight against the virus, which has claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives in the country.

In at least 24 states, there have been more cases announced in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch since the pandemic began. More than 54,800 people were hospitalized with the virus on Friday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

“Hospitals are definitely strained and societal measures remain relatively liberal,” said Dr. David Brett-Major, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska. “You just don’t get the feeling that folks are committed to enforcing taking it seriously.”

Mr. Biden has pledged to change that. On the campaign trail, he said he would take a significantly different approach to the virus, moving aggressively to encourage — and possibly mandate — mask wearing and remaining open to imposing restrictions as needed to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr. Biden’s policy advisers have been developing plans that would go into effect as soon as he took office, including ramping up testing, ensuring a steady supply of protective equipment, distributing a vaccine and securing money from Congress for schools and hospitals.

A cyclist pedaling down an empty street in Milan on the first day of a new lockdown on Friday. 
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

Surges in the United States and Europe have driven daily global counts of coronavirus infections and deaths to ominous highs this week. New cases surpassed 600,000 for the first time on Thursday, a day after daily deaths rose beyond 10,000 for the first time.

Globally, the virus has claimed 52,732 lives over the last seven days, bringing the death toll to more than 1.24 million since the pandemic began.

More than 49 million people have been infected since the pandemic began, and new infections have risen more than 27 percent over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times database. The harrowing milestone of 50 million cases is expected to be reached within days.

The United States accounted for a fifth of Thursday’s record total, reporting more than 121,000 new cases, a record it broke the following day with 132,797. In at least 24 states, there have been more cases announced in the past week than in any other…

Read More: COVID-19 News: Live Updates – The New York Times

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