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Live Coverage as President-elect Joe Biden Announces Health Team; Members Will Work to Restore Trust and Social Justice in COVID- 19 Fight; Live Coverage as Xavier Becerra and Vivek Murthy Announce Goals. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 08, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It provides coverage for more than 20 million Americans who get the care they need if they're showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The law that fulfills our moral obligation here in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for a few. But as all of you know, I know that out of our collective pain, we're going to find a collective purpose to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation.
Today, I'm pleased to announce a team who's going to do just that. It's a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis- tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism.
They're already ready to jump in, they've been advising me, many of them, for a long time and they're going to be ready on day one to spare not a single effort to get this pandemic under control so we can get back to work, get back to our lives, get back to our loved ones. To lead the COVID-19 response across the government, to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain and distribute the vaccine.
The work of my economic team, because controlling the pandemic, delivering better health care and reviving the economy go hand in hand. The work of my foreign policy and national security teams because we can't only beat the virus here at home, it must be beaten everywhere or it comes back to haunt us again.
Today, I'm announcing that in consultation with Dr. Tony Fauci, we developed the first three objectives of the new initiative that I'm asking this team to complete once I'm sworn in: our first 100 days in office.
My first hundred days won't end the COVID-19 virus, I can't promise that, 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 that in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.
First, my first hundred days is going to require -- I'm going to ask for a masking plan, everyone, for the first hundred days of my administration, to wear a mask. It will start with my signing an order on day one to require masks where I can under the law, like federal buildings, interstate travel on planes, trains and buses. I'll also be working with the governors and mayors to do the same in their states and their cities. We're going to require a mask wherever possible.
But this goes beyond government action. And so as a new president, I'm going to speak directly to the American people and say what I'm saying now, we need your help. Wear a mask for just 100 days. It's the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations and death. Help yourself, your family and your community, whatever your politics or point of view.
Mask up for 100 days once we take office, 100 days to make a difference. It's not a political statement, it's a patriotic act. It won't be the end of our efforts, but it's a necessary and easy beginning, an easy start.
Secondly, this team -- this team -- will help get at the latest -- at the last 100 million COVID-19 vaccine -- at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first hundred days, 100 million shots in the first hundred days.
And we'll follow the guidance of science to get the vaccines to those most at risk. That includes health care professionals, people in long- term care, and as soon as possible, it will include educators. This will be the most efficient mask vaccination plan in U.S. history.
I credit everyone who's gotten up -- who has gotten us up to this point, but developing a vaccine is only one Herculean task, distributing it is another Herculean task. You know, vaccines in a vial only work if they're injected into an arm of people, especially those most at risk. This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our nation's history. We're going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of the country, to everyone.
I'm encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress around a $900 billion economic relief package, which I've said is critical. But this package is only a start for more action early next year.
We must also focus significant resources on direct public health response to COVID-19. Our preliminary review of Trump administration's vaccine distribution plans confirms media reports. Without urgent action by this Congress this month to put sufficient resources into vaccine distribution and manufacturing, which the bipartisan group is working on, there's a real chance that after an early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall.
Let me repeat, we need Congress to finish the bipartisan work under way now, or millions of Americans may wait months longer to get the vaccine, months longer than they otherwise would have to wait to get the vaccine -- vaccination. Look, and then we're going to need additional action next year to fund the rest of the distribution efforts.
We (ph) also need the Trump administration to act now, though, to purchase the doses it has negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna, and to work swiftly to scale manufacturing to U.S. populations and the world. This can be fixed. If it does, if it is fixed, my team will be able to get at least 100 million vaccinations done in my first 100 days.
The third thing I'm going to ask in the hundred days, it should be a national priority to get out kids back into school and keep them in school. If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators and staff, if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.
That's right, we'll look to have the most schools open that we can possibly in 100 days, if Congress provides the funding we need. It's not a secret how to do it: masking, vaccinations, opening schools. These are the three key goals for my first 100 days. But we'll still have much to do in the year ahead, and sadly much difficulty as well.
We'll be far, far from done. Yet it's possible that after 100 days, we'll be much further along in the fight against this pandemic. And I'm grateful to the members of my COVID team that I'd like to introduce to you now, who will lead the way. I'm really proud of this group.
For secretary of Health and Education Services, I nominate Xavier Bacheria (ph). You know, Xavier -- Becerra, excuse me. He currently the attorney general of California, leading the second-largest justice department in America, only behind the United States Department of Justice. And for nearly 25 years before that, he was a congressman representing Los Angeles, one of the largest -- America's largest and most diverse cities.
Xavier spent a career fighting to expand access to health care, reducing racial health disparities, protecting the Affordable Care Act and take on powerful special interests who prey on -- profit off of people's health from opioid manufacturers to big tobacco.
During this pandemic, he's protect the safety of the frontline health care workers, rooted out the fraud from the bad actors who take advantage of people, and he stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgages during this devastating economic crisis.
There are things he's already fought for and accomplished in many cases, and as secretary, HHS secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and the FDA, Medicare and Medicaid. No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he'll lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act, he'll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care, prescription drug costs.
Xavier is a key leader who will lead -- a key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people. He's also the first Latino leading HHS, the son of a working family class -- working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico, a true public servant who's dedicated his career in the service of the people and the service of this country that we all love.
To serve as coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team, I'm turning to a world-class manager and leader. I've known Jeff for a long time, from the first and last days of the Obama-Biden White House and throughout the campaign and now the transition. There's no one else you'd want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country.
Director of National Economic Council for President Obama, acting director for the Office of Management and Budget, he's there, was there during the Great Recession as we went from crisis to recovery to resurgence in eight years. He was there to lead the team and help implement the Affordable Care Act and get healthcare.gov up and working at a critical moment. That was a monumental feat that required vision, patience, experience, fortitude and real expertise.
Well respected across the aisle and around the country from business to labor leaders to entrepreneurs to educators, chairman of the board, the Children's National Medical Center, one of the world's top children's hospitals. Jeff knows how to build and lead a team, how to identify and solve problems, and how to fully mobilize the federal government on behalf of the health, safety and prosperity of the American people.
Jeff Zients, thank you for being willing to do this again.
The surgeon general of the United States, I nominate a man who could do any of these jobs, I think, but Dr. Vivek Murthy. You've worked with me for a long time. He's a renowned physician and research scientist, a trusted national leader on health care. And for me, a trusted adviser during the campaign and transition.
This would be the second time serving as America's doctor, having served in this role under President Obama. During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face -- excuse me -- from the opioid crisis, to threats to America's mental health. I have asked Dr. Murthy to serve again as surgeon general, but with expanded responsibilities.
He will be a key public voice on the COVID response to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine. One of the reasons, Doc, I asked you to do this, when you speak, people listen. They trust you. You have a way of communicating, they can just see it in your eyes. I mean this sincerely, it's a really, really important thing to be communicated now, when people are in so much doubt.
But he'll also be a key adviser to me and help lead a whole-of- government (ph) approach to broader public health issues. We've talked a lot about the need to vastly increase the focus on mental health of the country, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental detriments to health and much more. So I'm really looking forward, and thank you for doing this.
Above all, I believe -- I believe as well as any person I've ever worked with, Vivek can help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities. The son of Indian immigrants who raise their children to always believe in the promise of America, Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisers and I'm grateful -- and I mean it sincerely, Vivek -- grateful for your willingness to continue to stay in public service.
And for director of the Center for Disease Control, the CDC -- and Prevention, I might add -- I appoint Rochelle Walensky. She's a chief infectious disease -- she's chief of infectious disease at one of the country's most preeminent hospitals, Massachusetts General in Boston.
A distinguished professor at Harvard Medical School and a world-class physician, one of the nation's foremost experts on testing, treatment and eradication of viruses, she has served on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, she's conducted groundbreaking research on vaccine delivery including how to reach underserved communities that are too often hit first, hardest, and treated last.
Dr. Walensky's work was instrumental on helping the world mitigate the public health crisis of HIV/AIDS. It inspired her as a young doctor to pursue her pioneering research in virus containment. Now, she'll bring her expertise to bear against COVID-19. She's uniquely qualified to restore morale and public trust. She'll marshal our finest scientists and public health experts at CDC to turn the tide on this urgent crisis we're facing today.
Because of the pandemic's disproportionate impact on communities of color, I concluded that I wanted -- we needed -- a COVID-19 Equity Task Force. To chair that -- to chair it, I appoint Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, one of the country's foremost experts on health care disparities, associate professor of Medicine and Public Health and Management at Yale School of Medicine, founding director of Yale's Equity Research and Innovation Center, and co-chair of my COVID-19 transition advisory board.
Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead our efforts to provide care to the communities most in need and most affected by the pandemic, and often overlooked. She'll ensure that fairness and equity are at the center of every part of our response. This is a central front in our fight against this pandemic, and I'm grateful Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead this charge.
And finally, as both head of my National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and my chief medical adviser on COVID-19, I'm pleased to say that Dr. Tony Fauci will be a member of my COVID team. By now, Tony needs -- Dr. Fauci needs no introduction, but he'll have my gratitude when I'm president, the seventh president he will have served.
We know each other and we've known each other for a long time, and I'm so grateful. When I called him, almost before I asked, he said yes. I've seen him take on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19 and every infectious disease in between over his nearly 40 years of service to our country. Dr. Fauci's trusted, a truth-teller, a patriot. Like every good
doctor, he'll tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know -- what I need to know, not what I want to know.
This is my core COVID health care team. Before January 20th, we'll be adding more leaders to oversee vaccine distribution, the supply chain, testing and other key functions.
To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude -- and I mean that, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve. And to your families, I know many of you are making real sacrifices to do this, thank you. And to your families, I say thank you directly. We couldn't do this without them or without you, the families, supporting this.
And to the American people, I know we've all had a lot of sleepless nights this year, so many of you staring at the ceiling at night, worrying, my God, what happens, what happens if it strikes my family? What happens if I lose my insurance? What happens, am I going to be OK, is my family going to be OK?
All I can tell you is the truth. We're in a very dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better. A vaccine may soon be available. We need to level with one another. It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of the country, depending on how it gets started off between now and the time I'm sworn in.
We'll need to persuade enough Americans to take the vaccine, many of them have become very cynical about its usefulness. It's daunting, but I promise you that we'll make progress starting on day one. We didn't get into this mess quickly, it's going to take time to fix. But we can do this. That's the truth.
I'm telling you the truth, is what this team, Vice President-elect Harris and I, will always do, give it to you straight from the shoulder, as Roosevelt used to say. This is the toughest challenge America's ever faced, one of the toughest, but we know that we can overcome and heal together as one nation.
To all of you on the frontlines, the health care professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery truck drivers, educators, parents, our children, I say thank you. But we can do this, we can do this.
I want to thank you for everything you've done to get us through this crisis so far, and we're never going to give up on you, I promise you. And we'll never give up on our country. We can do this, there's nothing we've ever failed to do when we decided to do it together, together. That's America.
To all those who have lost in this pandemic, all those who are sick and suffering, our hearts go out to you. Many of us know what it's like. May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for listening. Now I'd like to turn it over to the team starting with our next
secretary of Health and Human Service, Xavier Becerra. Xavier, thank you for being willing to take on the responsibility.
XAVIER BECERRA, NOMINEE AS SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Along with Carolina, my wife, and Natalia, Olivia, Clarisa and Ivan (ph), greetings from California.
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I am honored and excited to join your team. The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services has never been as vital or as urgent as it is today. The COVID pandemic and its economic fallout have thrust families into crisis. Too many Americans are sick or have lost loved ones, too many have lost their jobs -- and with that their health care and hope.
You have made it clear, Mr. President-elect, that to build back a prosperous America, we need a healthy America. That then will be job one for your team at HHS.
Fifty-five years ago, during another time of hardship, former health secretary and fellow Californian John Gardner said, "What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems." Gardner went on to help President Lyndon Johnson build the Great Society, ushering in Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights, that brought greater equity, greater opportunity and greater hope to all Americans.
Now it's our turn to discover the breathtaking opportunities before us in the midst of this hardship and pain. It's our turn to build up and to back up our doctors and medical professionals, our hospitals and clinics battling the coronavirus. Our turn to restore faith and confidence in our leaders, to deliver solutions that unite and heal us and inoculate us from fear.
Our turn to spur our brightest minds to launch the next generation of innovative medicines and cures. And it is our turn to build a nation where, as the president-elect so often says, health care is a right, not a privilege.
At HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, keeping us healthy should be our calling card. And we won't forget that there is a second H in HHS, the human services. The work we do for our children, seniors and disabled, they will stand tall in a Biden-Harris HHS.
Almost a year ago on New Year's Day, my father Manuel passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family. We got to celebrate Christmas together. And when the end came, my dad knew we were there with him.
No one -- no one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation, the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America.
Manuel and Maria Teresa had only their health and hope when they arrived in California. A road construction workers with a sixth grade education and a clerical worker who arrived in her teens from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
As they helped build a better California, they built a pretty good partnership that lasted 67 years. And while they never got to experience the inside of a college, they did send their four kids there, as well as to the military.
Now, President-elect Biden has offered me a breathtaking opportunity to work with his team to shape our health care future. I share the president-elect and vice president-elect's determination to rebuild unity and civility in America. We know it takes hard work, we know we must do it together, we know it will be key to building critical momentum and support for the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.
Those values and priorities will help us emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more just and more equitable nation. Literally, there are millions of small business owners and tens of millions of workers who are counting on us.
I am proud to have this chance to implement the president-elect's vision for a better America through the challenging assignments that are in store for the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for this opportunity to serve.
VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE: Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for your trust and your confidence. I bring greetings and thanks also from my grandmother, Sarojini, my mother and father, Maithreya and Narasimha (ph) Murthy, from my sister Rashmi and brother-in-law Amit (ph) and from my dear wife Alice and my dear children, Tejas and Shanti, we thank you for this opportunity to serve.
When I left my role as surgeon general, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to serve again. And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people have lost their jobs and are struggling for child care, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic.
While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have as a country what we need to overcome this virus. We have world-class scientists, we have courageous medical professionals who are risking their lives to care for the ill, we have companies that are on the cusp of delivering vaccines.
TEXT: Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general nominee: Former surgeon general, 2014-2017; Co-chair of Biden's COVID-19 transition advisory board
MURTHY: And most of all, we are blessed with generous and compassionate people all across America who are stepping up to help those who are struggling. If we work together, we will overcome this pandemic and return to our lives. But COVID-19 is not the only health crisis we face. If anything, it
has underscored a host of other epidemics that are devastating families and shortening life spans, crises like addiction, including the opioid crisis; our spiraling (ph) mental health concerns, our glaring racial health disparities, and the high rates of chronic illness that we face like diabetes and heart disease.
These challenges are both caused by but also exacerbated by broader societal issues, from the economic strains so many people are facing to the disconnection and loneliness that many of us feel.
In my new expanded role, I will work to bring a health focus to our policies across government so that our schools, our workplaces and our communities can be forces for strengthening our health and wellbeing.
But the truth is that the very policies -- and even the best vaccines and treatments -- will not heal our nation unless we also overcome the fear, anxiety, anger and distrust that so many Americans are feeling right now.
So more than anything, I will come to this role as a doctor, one who learned the most important lessons about medicine not in medical school, but from the clinic that my parents opened when they first came to America as immigrants, decades ago.
As a child, I saw how they took their time, not just to diagnose illnesses, but to ask their patients' families about their lives, to pore over pictures of children and grandchildren that were pulled from wallets. They listened deeply to people's stories and their struggles, often running well over their appointment time.
And they taught me that the best doctor is not an authority figure who writes prescriptions, but rather a partner in healing, someone who sees patients in their fullest humanity and empowers them to take charge of their health. That is the kind of doctor I have always tried to be. And, if confirmed, that is the kind of surgeon general that I will strive to be.
I will dedicate myself to caring for every American, driven always by science and facts, by head and by heart. And endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India could be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of an entire nation. That is a testament to the promise of America, one that I will seek to fulfill every day as surgeon general.
Thank you so much. And thank you again, Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, for this opportunity to serve.