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The 'Darkest Days Are Ahead Of Us,' Biden Warns On COVID-19 Pandemic

President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks Tuesday in Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks Tuesday in Delaware.

Updated at 4:02 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden warned Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better.

"Our darkest days are ahead of us, not behind us," Biden told reporters during a news conference in Wilmington, Del. He said that Americans, when united, could overcome this, and he said the first vaccines being administered was a good thing. But he noted that distribution of the vaccines is one of the biggest operational challenges the country has ever faced.

The House and Senate passed a nearly $1 trillion COVID-19 aid package Monday evening after months of negotiations. Biden praised Congress for the bill, but he stressed that it wasn't enough, especially considering it only provides 10 weeks of unemployment benefits.

"It's going to take a lot longer that that" for the economy to recover, Biden said. He reiterated that he would push for a bigger package when he is president, including for more direct payments to families, as well as for distribution, testing, states and local governments.

Biden's remarks came a day after he and his wife, Jill, received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. cases of the coronavirus are once again on the rise, and the national death toll from the virus nears 320,000 lives lost. Biden hopes in the first 100 days to oversee the distribution of 100 million shots of the vaccine.

Biden thanked health care and front-line workers, and said his family usually has 25 people or so over for Christmas, "but not this year," Biden said, adding, "Like we did over Thanksgiving," we all have to care for each other by staying apart, Biden said. "I know it's hard."

Going after Trump on cyberattack

Biden also sharply criticized President Trump on the widespread cyberattack through the U.S. government. Cybersecurity experts have said that the infiltration has all the hallmarks of Russian intelligence, but Trump downplayed the severity of the hack and even said it could be China.

"Enough's enough," Biden said, calling Trump's efforts a failure and noted that he hadn't treated cybersecurity seriously.

"This assault happened on Donald Trump's watch when he wasn't watching," Biden charged, noting that Trump "still has the responsibility to defend America for the next four weeks, but, even if he does not take it seriously, I will."

Biden added about the attack: "It is a grave risk, and it continues. I see no evidence that it's under control."

He also said his team had not been briefed on the attack by the Pentagon.

No immediate immigration rollback

Biden said he had already begun discussing changes to immigration policy with counterparts in Mexico and Latin America.

But he said he would not roll back President Trump's policies immediately to avoid an influx of millions of people at the southern U.S. border.

Biden said changes would require funding, including for more asylum judges.

Biden still has Cabinet positions, like attorney general, to fill out. The president-elect promised that another announcement would come Wednesday, though he didn't specify for which job.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.