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WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, stopping just short of the nationwide mandate he’s pushed before to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The move marks a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to a politicization of the issue. That’s made many people reticent to embrace a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic, which has killed more than 275,000 Americans.
The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty” and during the campaign floated the idea of instituting a nationwide mask mandate, which he later acknowledged would be beyond the ability of the president to enforce.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden said he would make the request of Americans on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
“On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever, just 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction” in the virus, Biden said.
Biden also said he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to stay on in his administration, “in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.
The president-elect said he’s asked Fauci to be a “chief medical adviser” as well as part of his COVID-19 advisory team.
Regarding a coronavirus vaccine, Biden said he’d be “happy” to get inoculated in public to assuage any concerns about its efficacy and safety. Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they’d also get vaccinated publicly to show that it’s safe.
“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden said, adding that “it matters what a president and the vice president do.”
In the same interview, Biden also weighed in on reports that Trump is considering pardons of himself and his allies.
“It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice,” Biden said.
Biden committed that his Justice Department will “operate independently” and that whoever he chooses to lead the department will have the “independent capacity to decide who gets investigated.”
“You’re not going to see in our administration that kind of approach to pardons, nor are you going to see in our administration the approach to making policy by tweets,” he said.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added that any decision coming out of the Department of Justice “should be based on facts, should be based on the law — it should not be influenced by politics.”