Biden implores Americans to wear masks as Covid-19 hospital cases soar

WILMINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden implored Americans on Monday to wear protective masks to combat the coronavirus pandemic, appealing to their patriotism, as he convened a task force to devise a blueprint for tackling the public health crisis.

"We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives. American lives," Mr Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.

"I implore you. Wear a mask. Do it for yourself. Do it for your neighbour. A mask is not a political statement."

Mr Biden spoke two days after clinching election victory over current president Donald Trump, though the Republican has not acknowledged defeat and is pursuing legal challenges to the results while making unfounded claims of fraud.

Mr Biden, set to take office on Jan 20, conferred by video with his 13-member task force, headed by former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University healthcare equity expert Marcella Nunez-Smith.

The president-elect labelled as "great news" Pfizer's announcement on Monday that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective.

But Mr Biden said it would be "many more months before there is widespread vaccination" in the US and underscored the importance of wearing protective masks and social distancing.

There were just over 59,000 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the US on Monday, the country's highest number ever of in-patients being treated for the disease, with new infections exceeding 100,000 for the sixth consecutive day. More than 237,000 Americans have died.

The harsh statistics cemented the US position as the nation worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible," Mr Biden said.

"And masks are critical in doing that. It won't be forever. But that's how we'll get our nation back up to speed economically, so we can go back to celebrating birthdays and holidays together, so we can attend sporting events together, so that we can get back to the lives and connections we shared before the pandemic." - REUTERS