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Despite Trump, Biden plans for pandemic fight, economic recovery

Only weeks remain before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. In a speech Monday, Biden focused on how he would act to rebuild the U.S. economy after the damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. But meanwhile, he and his team are concerned about how President Trump’s denials of his victory could slow progress around a COVID-19 vaccine. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With about nine weeks until his inauguration, president-elect Joe Biden's focus today was on rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus.

    Lisa Desjardins was at the president-elect's speech. And she joins us from Wilmington, Delaware.

    So, Lisa, let's start with today's news that we have been discussing, the promising word on a vaccine, a second vaccine. What is president-elect Biden saying about this and the potential for mass distribution of it?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As you were discussing with Francis Collins there, the president-elect is saying that there are real concerns and he thinks a real threat to human beings in this country if he is not and his team is not able to get information about the vaccine plan specifically and other things.

    But what does that mean exactly? I talked to Dr. Atul Gawande. He's one of the members of president-elect Biden's Coronavirus Task Force. He's a professor at Harvard, among other qualifications that he has.

    And he said, as you have been talking about, that nothing like this has ever been attempted, not in scope, not in speed, and that, in eight weeks, a new administration will take over the handling of this monumental task, and they need to know at least as much as they can, if there is a plan, about that plan.

    Second, Dr. Gawande also told me something else interesting. It's not just about the vaccine that the — that Biden has a concern, but also about general supplies. Dr. Gawande says he's hearing from nursing homes and others already that there could be shortages of supplies of things like gloves or masks, things that people will need to care for the people who get the disease, as well as for people who want to administer the vaccine.

    So, there is a very sort of critical supply question also that the Biden team would like to have more answers to.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, Lisa, we know the president-elect also talking today, focusing on the economy, connected to the pandemic, of course.

    He met with leaders of both organized maybe organized labor and business. Any signs early on of any — of common ground for a path forward there?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You know, Judy, how many times do we hear about these meetings, and we hear there was common ground, it was productive, and, sometimes, we're skeptical, right?

    Well, I spoke to people in that meeting and who said, actually, it was productive, including the leader of the Service Employees International Union. She has many nurses and front-line workers in her union. A

    And she says that all of those CEOs, everyone agreed on a couple of things, including that there is more need to focus on PPE now, also that there's a need they said they agreed on for more attention right now on communities of color, which are suffering economically and in health.

    And one more thing, Judy. There was an interesting conversation between the UAW and also GM about electric cars. Is that a way that they can help with jobs in the future if they get some federal help from a future Biden administration?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, he's only been president-elect for, what, a little more than a week since the race was called.

    Is it known what, if anything, he can do now before he — well before he takes office to do something about the need for economic recovery?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, my reporting gave us some ideas.

    You know, president-elect Biden said today there's only one president at a time. But what he's doing, as we saw, in this call is marshaling resources to try and help the situation in the future and also right now.

    One thing that he asked these CEOs and union leaders to do was put pressure on Congress right now, before he takes office, to try and pass some more coronavirus relief. He might not get credit for it, but he's saying, we need it now. We can't wait until January.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Lisa Desjardins reporting from Wilmington, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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