Biden takes oaths as US reaches 400,000 COVID deaths

With the United States approaching a once-unthinkable coronavirus pandemic death toll of 400,000 people, Joseph R. Biden Jr., on the eve of his inauguration as President, is assuming the role of mourner in chief and projecting an air of command of the issue that has vexed the Trump administration for the past year.

The president-elect will arrive in the nation’s capital Tuesday evening for a somber inauguration-eve ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, where 400 lights will be illuminated along the perimeter of the reflecting pool. Each is meant to represent 1,000 Americans who have died during the pandemic.

On Monday night, as President Trump ordered an end to the ban on travellers from Europe and Brazil that had been aimed at stopping   the spread of the Coronavirus to the United States, Biden’s aides said he would rescind the move when he takes office.

Trump’s order was issued at a time of heightened anxiety over the coronavirus and what Biden has warned will be a “dark winter.” The country has experienced a post-holidays surge in cases that has overwhelmed some hospitals and led to record numbers of deaths. The national vaccination rollout has been slow and chaotic. And a more contagious virus variant is spreading, while others are being discovered.

Biden has declared getting control of the pandemic the central issue of his administration, and has been highly critical of how his predecessor handled the worst public health crisis in more than 100 years.

Trump, in a proclamation, said that the travel restrictions, which apply to non-citizens trying to come to the United States, would no longer be needed on Jan. 26, once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention start requiring proof of a negative virus test before boarding for all passengers from abroad. The proclamation appeared to be an effort to help the airline and hospitality industries.


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