Former Vice President Joe Biden urged Americans at a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday to put aside political differences now that the 2020 “election is over.” He also told them to “wear a mask” to prevent further spreading of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Biden, whom multiple media outlets have declared president-elect though President Trump is challenging the results, announced members of his coronavirus advisory task force during the presser. At its conclusion, the former vice president took a moment to address what he saw as the “politicization of basic responsible public health steps, like mask-wearing and social distancing.”
“The election is over. … I won’t be president until January 20, but my message today is to everyone,” Biden told those in attendance. “It doesn’t matter who you voted … we can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months.”
“Not Democrat or Republican lives, but American lives,” Biden added.
He proceeded to argue that “the goal of mask-wearing is not to make your life less comfortable or take something away from you,” but rather a way to get “back to normal as fast as possible.”
“Please, I implore you: wear a mask. Do it for yourself. Do it for your neighbor,” Biden said. “A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling the country together.”
The comments come one day after NBC News reported the former vice president was planning, upon taking office next year, to call on state and local officials to issue mask mandates nationwide. An aide for the Biden campaign told the outlet that if some elected officials, such as governors, refuse the call, the pressure will fall on local leaders.
“If a governor declines, he’ll go to the mayors in the state and ask them to lead,” the aide told NBC. “In many states, there is the capacity of mayors to institute mandates.”
For much of the 2020 cycle, Biden was forced to walk a tight rope on the issue of national mask mandates. Initially, during the summer, he repeatedly called for the federal government to institute a nationwide order requiring every citizen to don a mask in public.
As public attitudes towards the virus became normalized and questions arose over the constitutionality of such a mandate, Biden began backing away from the issue slightly. This was evidenced in September when the former vice president told a local CBS affiliate in Arizona that federal mask requirements likely went beyond the constraints of presidential authority.