“I don't think it should be mandatory, I wouldn't demand it to be mandatory,” Biden told reporters on Friday at the tail end of an event in Delaware, referring to the vaccine, adding that he also doesn’t believe “masks have to be made mandatory nationwide.”
I’ll do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing – and when they do it, demonstrate that it matters.
The remark came one day after the media-declared president-elect stated his intent to “ask” Americans to don face coverings for the first 100 days of his administration, cutting against his own previous statements, as well as critics predicting a coronavirus crackdown under the Democrat’s presidency.
While Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in October that he wouldn’t rule out a vaccine mandate, saying it would depend on “the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it's being distributed,” at the time he acknowledged such a rule would be difficult to enforce.
Biden has made an even sharper U-turn on a national mask requirement. Though he repeatedly endorsed the idea throughout the campaign season, calling on President Trump in August to “institute a mask mandate nationwide, starting immediately,” he has since backed away from that stance, instead urging state and local officials to impose the measures themselves.
The former vice president insisted on Friday that he did not want to “punish” Americans with overbearing restrictions amid the pandemic, but nonetheless said it is a “patriotic duty” to wear masks.
“If people do it for 100 days, in the middle of what will still be a raging crisis, and the vaccine is able to be distributed, they’re going to see deaths drop off the edge,” he said.
The US has recorded more than 14.3 million coronavirus infections and nearly 279,000 fatalities since the outbreak started, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, keeping its place at the top of the list of worst-hit nations in terms of reported cases and deaths.