US President-elect Joe Biden has called for an end to the “grim season of division”, as the country faces a long, hard winter with Covid-19.
In a speech for the Thanksgiving holiday, he said Americans were at war with coronavirus, not each other.
The US saw more than 1.2 million cases last week, with 2,200 deaths on Tuesday – the highest number since late May. There are more than 12.7 million coronavirus infections and over 262,000 deaths. More than 88,000 people in the country- an all-time high- were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, pushing the health care system in many places to the breaking point.
In his speech, Biden told the nation: “I believe you always deserve to hear the truth from your president. We have to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and the nurses and the frontline workers… We owe it to our fellow citizens.”
He said Covid-19 had “brought us pain and loss and frustration” and cost many lives.
The president-elect urged Americans to modify their Thanksgiving celebrations. He said that instead of the usual large gathering he would be spending the holiday with just his wife Jill and their daughter and son-in-law, while the rest of the family would be in small groups.
But millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways ahead of Thanksgiving, disregarding increasingly dire warnings that they stay home and limit their holiday gatherings to members of their own household.
While the number of Americans traveling by air over the past several days was down dramatically from the same time last year, many pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid skyrocketing deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed infections across the US.
About 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through US airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday, a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago. Still, those were some of the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the US in March
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities have begged people not to travel and urged them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small.
“That’ll make sure that your extended family are around to celebrate Christmas and to celebrate the holidays next year,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.
Joe Biden vowed that in due course, the pandemic would be beaten.
“I know that we can and will beat this virus,” he said. “Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. I believe this grim season of division… is going to give way to a year of light and unity.”
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports