Biden Announces His Number One Priority: Defeating the Pandemic

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Oh what a difference an election makes. President-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday that defeating the pandemic will be his number one priority when he assumes office Jan. 20.

He acted swiftly by setting up an eminently qualified 13-member virus task force – we’ll be lead by the science – and made an urgent plea for Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus:

We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months.

As the New York Times reports, the magnitude of his task became starkly clear on Sunday as the nation surpassed 10 million cases and sank deeper into the grip of what could become the worst chapter yet of the pandemic. In his remarks, the president-elect said the grim statistics suggested that the country was “facing a very dark winter” ahead: “Infection rates are going up. Hospitalizations are going up. Deaths are going up,” Mr. Biden said after listening to his advisers, who called into the meeting remotely (above photo).

Biden cautioned that Americans would need to rely on basic precautions in order to “get back to normal as fast as possible.” 

Science even has a neat way of thinking about those precautions. It’s called the Swiss Cheese Theory of disease prevention and is premised on the idea of viral load: the less virus that reaches you the less likely you are to get sick, and the less sick you’ll be if you do become ill.

You reduce your exposure to the virus by putting up barriers between you and the bug: masks, gloves, handwashing, distancing, staying home, staying away from crowds, and so on as depicted in the chart below. Each barrier = a ‘slice’ of cheese, and since no one barrier is foolproof – a mask, say – the more you have in place the better as there has to be a straight line through each ‘slice’ for the virus to reach us.

So the take home message is twofold: We’re not sitting ducks – there’s a lot each of us can do to protect ourselves. Second, we have a responsibility to others as the more people who do this the safer all of us will be, says Sid Mukherjee, MD.

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