I want everyone to know on day one, we're going to put our plan to control this virus into action. We can't save any of the lives lost - any of those that have been lost - but we can save a lot of lives in the months ahead.President-elect Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden has declared that his first priority is to get the epidemic under control.
"I want everyone to know on day one, we're going to put our plan to control this virus into action," he said.
"We can't save any of the lives lost - any of those that have been lost - but we can save a lot of lives in the months ahead."
Before he was elected, his campaign literature said the key to "the decisive public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control" was to:
- Listen to science
- Ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals
- Restore trust, transparency, common purpose, and accountability to our government
So how will he do it?
With difficulty, is the short answer.
He has some things in his favour, like time. He doesn't take power until January 20 and by that time, a vaccine may be on the horizon. If it isn't available in large quantities and with systems in place to inoculate masses of people, it should at least be on the way.
But he has factors against him, too.
The epidemic is way out of control in the United States. The numbers are daunting.
There have now been more than ten million cases.
On Saturday, there were 126,742 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On four days last week, the number of new cases was more than 100,000 and Saturday was the third day in a row when there were more than 120,000.
On top of that, the epidemic is now deeply politicised.
Mr Trump conspicuously didn't wear a mask and at times seemed dismissive of scientific advice.
In a highly-individualistic society, with hard-line Trump supporters angry, it may be that obeying regulations about, say, lock-downs or mask-wearing would be flouted as a political statement against the incoming administration.
In addition, the United States already has a substantial number of "anti-vaxxers".
Between 20 and 40 per cent of Americans are sceptical of the efficacy of vaccines in general, according to two US academics, Kristin Lunz Trujillo of the University of Minnesota and Matt Motta of Oklahoma State University.
"If most of these individuals forego receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, they could potentially jeopardise the recovery process," the academics wrote.
Why do the refusers matter?
Surely, if they are a minority, their refusal can't jeopardise the whole project.
To bring the epidemic under control, there needs to be herd immunity.
This doesn't mean a hundred per cent of a population are either vaccinated or have immunity because they've caught and recovered from the disease, but it does need enough of the population to be immune so that the chances of an infected person passing it on are slight.
For highly-infectious measles, scientists reckon 95 per cent of the population need to be immune for an outbreak to peter out.
For COVID-19, they reckon at least 60 per cent of a population needs to be immune.
If there is a big group of refusers, it gets very hard to achieve that thresh-hold.
So what's to be done
The first step this week is to name a group of scientific advisors - a "coronavirus war cabinet".
You might think immediately that this does nothing.
The panel of experts would have no power for two months. Mr Trump has scientific advisors and little good has it done.
But countries which have got a grip on the epidemic have shown - and Australia is absolutely in the lead on this - that a sceptical public has to be convinced that it is being advised with authority and not for political gain.
The panel of experts would likely be from people who served under previous presidents of both political persuasions.
He's already consulted David Kessler who served under presidents Bush and Clinton, and Vivek H. Murthy, surgeon general under President Barack Obama.
In other words, Mr Biden may try to take the politics out of the epidemic.
The federal government does not mandate the wearing of masks. That is done by state governments, and, according to Christopher Adolph of the University of Washington, Republican state governors have been loathe to insist while Democratic governors have been more likely to.
Mr Biden would use his power and influence as the President of the United States to persuade governors to come on board.
The dynamic of power changes when he is president.
Governors need no longer fear the displeasure of Mr Trump and his supporters. So runs the theory.
Will it work?
The research on public health campaigns indicates that persuasion rather than compulsion is more effective - and compulsory vaccination would be well-nigh impossible in a country which prizes individual freedom so highly.
If Mr Trump goes quietly, the rancour may evaporate and Mr Biden's attempt to depoliticise the epidemic may get more traction.
If the epidemic turns into an even worse disaster, opposition to vaccination may wane.
There are a lot of ifs. Can President Biden be the great persuader?