One pandemic, two presidents: A split-screen moment underscores the clashing approaches of Trump and Biden.

One pandemic, two presidents: A split-screen moment underscores the clashing approaches of Trump and Biden.

One pandemic, two presidents: A split-screen moment underscores the clashing approaches of Trump and Biden.

One pandemic, two presidents: A split-screen moment underscores the clashing approaches of Trump and Biden.

The current president hailed a “monumental national achievement.” His successor grimly described a “mass casualty” event.

The remarks about the coronavirus pandemic by President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday offered a striking, split-screen moment, underscoring how differently the two men are approaching the worst public health crisis in 100 years that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

Speaking in Wilmington, Del., as he introduced the people who will lead his health care agencies, Mr. Biden painted a grim picture of the infections ravaging the nation even as he vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.

He pledged to run “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history” but did not say how and through what companies his administration would purchase vaccine shots. Mr. Biden also implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make doing so a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.

“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden, speaking at a virtual event in an almost empty room, said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced we can change course.”

The senior officials Mr. Biden will appoint — including Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the California attorney general, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services — will face the immediate challenge of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 285,000 people in the United States and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

Other health officials included in the event were Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will lead a Covid-19 equity task force, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the incoming coordinator of the Covid-19 response.

It was a much more upbeat message at an auditorium near the White House, where Mr. Trump packed industry officials and members of his administration — most of them wearing masks — for a “vaccine summit” to celebrate the expected approval of a vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration this week.

The dueling scenes came as Britain began vaccinating people in the wake of that country’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — the same one on the verge of approval in the United States. In Britain, scenes of people receiving the first doses of the vaccine dominated television coverage offering a bit of good news in the fight against the virus.

Asked why he had not included members of Mr. Biden’s transition team in the summit to ensure smooth delivery of the vaccine by the next administration, Mr. Trump again complained, without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election and said he hoped the next administration would be “the Trump administration.”

Mr. Trump, who entered to a recording of “Hail to the Chief” and stood in front of a backdrop with American flags, claimed credit for the vaccine, thanking his White House staff and advisers — though he pointedly excluded Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, who has been tapped by Mr. Biden to be his chief medical adviser and appeared remotely at the president-elect’s event.

Mr. Trump barely mentioned the surge in cases and deaths across the country in recent weeks, only repeating his longstanding — and false — assertion that the United States only has more cases because it does more testing. The country has shattered record after record as it approaches 300,000 deaths and surpassed 15 million known cases amid a brutal and accelerating surge. As of Monday, the nation recorded the most virus-related deaths over a weeklong period — about 2,200 daily — and an average of more than 201,000 cases a day.


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