Are you attending one of this year’s White House holiday parties? You know, the ones where nobody wears masks. No? Neither am I. My invitation got lost in the mail.
That’s OK with me. I hope to survive the pandemic long enough to celebrate Christmas—Christmas 2021. That is not guaranteed yet, despite the hopeful news about a vaccine, and my expectation that President Biden will lead us through this winter’s spike and minimize infections and deaths as much as possible.
I hope we soon will see a drop in the incredible daily numbers of infections and deaths (around 200,000 infections and 2,800 deaths). To cut those numbers in half, we need strong leadership from the President. We also need to do our part—follow CDC guidelines and encourage others to do the same.
Last week President-Elect Biden called for all Americans to wear masks for 100 days. He also announced that Dr. Fauci would serve an enhanced role in directing the response to the virus. Better yet, the new president is not going to waste time figuring out a way to take credit for the production and distribution of a vaccine but is mapping ways to mitigate the spread of the virus before those vaccines are widely available.
Healthcare experts believe that if the nation were to follow Biden’s directive, hundreds of thousands of infections, and perhaps thousands of lives, would be saved. That is presidential leadership.
What If the mask requirement were implemented now? One particularly sad aspect of the Biden announcement is that it did not include a request for the current administration to make the same suggestion. Would President Trump suddenly encouraging everyone to wear a mask make a difference? Maybe. It would be worth a try.
Did President-Elect Biden even ask Trump if he were interested in a joint announcement? That is perhaps a naïve question. Because Trump still believes (or claims to believe) he won the election, cooperating in such a prominent way with Biden is illogical. Thus, an opportunity to save lives is missed.
President-elect Biden’s mask directive is the first of many actions he will take in coming days and weeks, signaling a fundamental change in White House leadership on the virus. His appointments for the Departments of HHS, (California Attorney General Xavier Becerra), Education, and other agencies will be leaders who are ready to lead on the virus. The HHS appointment may be the single most important appointment to his cabinet. His nomination for the Secretary of Education is also pivotal in reopening schools in a responsible manner.
I will be watching the appointments for the new administration in the coming weeks and cheering them on as they take on the coronavirus challenge. It may be naïve, but it would be nice if everyone did the same.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.