President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Americans not to gather with extended families for Thanksgiving, saying it was a “patriotic duty” to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Biden said during an at times campaign-like speech in Wilmington, Del., that he and his family were setting an example by not celebrating the holiday as a large group.
“This year we are asking Americans to forgo so many of the traditions that we’ve long made this holiday,” Biden said.
“This year, because we care so much for each other, we’re going to be having a separate Thanksgiving for Jill and I, who will be at our home in Delaware with our daughter and our son-in-law. The rest of the family will be doing the same thing in small groups,” Biden said.
“I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions. But it is so very important. Our country’s in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We are now averaging 160,000 new cases a day.”
The former vice president said that the stakes are high if people flout health guidance.
“Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That’s the plain and simple truth. … I believe you always deserve to hear the truth, hear the truth from your president,” Biden said.
“We have to try to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and nurses and other front-line workers — care workers who risked their lives, some lost their lives, put so much on the line in the heroic battle against this virus … We owe that to our fellow citizens who need access to hospital beds and care. We owe it to one another. It’s literally our patriotic duty as Americans. It means wearing a mask, keeping social distance, limiting the size of any group we’re in until we have a vaccine. These are the most effective tools to combat the virus.”
Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Delaware, today.Getty Images
Biden reprised a campaign line that was frequently bashed by President Trump’s campaign, warning, “We find ourselves again facing a long, hard winter,” which he likened to starvation among Revolutionary War troops in the 1700s.
Biden will take office on Jan. 20 during the early stages of vaccine distribution. The Food and Drug Administration meets on Dec. 10 to review a vaccine candidate application filed last week by Pfizer, which clinical trials data indicates is about 95 percent effective.
Biden, who turned 78 last week, has pursued a starkly different approach than Trump toward avoiding personal exposure to the virus. Whereas Trump held large rallies and was infected with the virus in October, Biden relegated supporters to socially distant vehicles for “drive-in” rallies and put reporters in spaced-out bubbles during rare press conferences.
In his 17-minute minute pre-Thanksgiving address, Biden insisted that “none of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one is based on science.”
He said “the federal government can’t do this alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters.”
Biden said that “life is going to return to normal” and that “I still believe we have much to be thankful for.”
“First, let’s be thankful for democracy itself,” Biden said, referring to his own election victory.
Biden said that a “this grim season of demonization and division” under Trump “is going to give way to a year of light” and a “more compassionate chapter in the life of our nation.”