WILMINGTON, Del. — On a day of grace and grievance, President-elect Joe Biden summoned Americans on Wednesday to join in common purpose against the coronavirus pandemic and their political divisions.
Biden, in a Thanksgiving-eve address to the nation, put the surging pandemic front and center, pledging to tap the “vast powers” of the federal government and “change the course of the disease” once in office. But for that to work, he said, Americans must step up for their own safety and that of their fellow citizens.
“I know the country has grown weary of the fight,” Biden said. “We need to remember we’re at war with the virus, not with one another. Not with each other.”
President Donald Trump, who has scarcely mentioned the pandemic in recent days even as it has achieved record heights, remained fixated on his election defeat.
He sent his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other members of his legal team to meet Pennsylvania Republican state senators in Gettysburg. Inside a hotel near the hallowed battlefields of civil war, they again aired complaints about the election and repeated allegations of Democratic malfeasance that have already disintegrated under examination by courts.
Trump had been expected to appear in person in Gettysburg, but did not after another member of his legal team tested positive for the coronavirus. He instead joined the meeting by speakerphone. Few in attendance at the meeting wore masks.
For his part, Biden has largely projected serenity as the necessary elements of a presidential transition — money, access to office space and more — were kept at bay for nearly three weeks by Trump’s machinations and a delayed ascertainment by the General Services Administration that he had won the election. On Wednesday, he addressed Trump’s raw tactics only in passing.
“Our democracy was tested this year,” Biden said, “but the people of this nation are up to the task.”
“In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results,” he said. “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”
And he offered an optimistic vision, calling on Americans to “dream again” and predicting that “the 21st century is going to be an American century.”
Biden pledged more virus testing, more protective gear and clearer guidance for businesses and schools to reopen when he becomes president. Until vaccines are distributed, he said, masks, social distancing and limits in the size of gatherings “are our most effective tools to combat the virus.”
Biden’s remarks came as COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide. Hospitalizations, deaths and the testing positivity rate were also up sharply as the nation headed into Thanksgiving, and public health experts warned that the large family gatherings expected for the holiday are likely to extend and exacerbate the surge.
In urging Americans to be vigilant in their Thanksgiving plans, Biden said Wednesday that he was taking precautions of his own, eschewing his traditional large family gathering and spending the holiday instead with just his wife, daughter and son-in-law.
He’s traveling with his wife, Jill, to Rehoboth Beach, the small Delaware beach town where the two have a vacation home. That’s where they’ll host their family for Thanksgiving dinner. Biden is expected to stay through the weekend in Rehoboth before returning to Wilmington for further work on the transition.