Biden introduces health crisis team, sets goals for U.S. to overcome pandemic

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama sits next to Commander of Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin III during a briefing from top military leaders while at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, September 17, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden introduced the team to lead his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing the mass vaccination distribution needed to achieve his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

Biden said he needed Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of the United States. Getting children back to school will be a national priority in the first 100 days, Biden told a briefing in Wilmington, Delaware.

“In 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better,” Biden said. “Whatever your politics or point of view, mask up for 100 days.”

Effective vaccines would help the Biden administration turn its focus to healing the ailing U.S. economy. There was more positive news on Tuesday in the form of U.S. Food and Drug Administration documents showing that the regulator did not raise any new issues about Pfizer Inc’s vaccine safety or efficacy.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he departs the Queen theatre after holding meetings in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“My first time 100 days won’t end the COVID-19 virus. I can’t promise that,” Biden said. “But, but we did not get into this mess quickly. We’re not going to get out of it quickly. It’s going to take some time. But I’m absolutely convinced. And then 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.”

Biden introduced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Latino former congressman, for secretary of health and human services. Becerra has a long record of supporting the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Biden chose Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, to run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was named as Biden’s chief medical adviser on the virus and Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, reprising a role he held in the Obama administration.

Biden picked Jeff Zients, an economic adviser known for his managerial skills, as coronavirus “czar.” Zients will oversee the pandemic response, including the distribution of hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine in coordination with several federal agencies, among them the Pentagon.

Biden, a Democrat, takes office on Jan. 20 after defeating Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Trump, who has made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, is getting help from Texas to try and overturn the results in a lawsuit at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit filed by Republican-governed Texas on Tuesday accused state election officials in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin of failing to protect mail-in voting from fraud amid a surge of mailed ballots during the pandemic. State officials have said they have found no evidence of such fraud that would change the results.

Tuesday is a deadline https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN28I1DN set by U.S. law for election disputes to be resolved and states to certify results. Texas is asking the Supreme Court to delay the Dec. 14 meetings of Electoral College members to formally select the presidential nominee who won the popular vote in their home states.

The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear the case and has said in previous decisions that its “original jurisdiction” that allows litigation between states to be filed directly with the nine justices should be invoked sparingly.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis in Delaware and Phil Stewart in Washington; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Andrea Shalal, John Whitesides and Makini Brice; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

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