President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday expressed empathy with struggling families and applauded Congress for passing the coronavirus relief bill as the nation deals with a COVID-19 surge that's casting a shadow over the Christmas holiday.
He called out to frontline workers, scientists, researchers, clinical trial participants and those with deployed family members during the holiday season.
"Our hearts are always with you — keep the faith," he said in a year-end address from Wilmington, Delaware.
Noting the ways that the pandemic has altered his own holiday celebrations, which typically include up to two dozen relatives, Biden said, "not this year."
"This season of reflection carries a much deeper meaning than it usually does," Biden said, encouraging Americans to continue to take precautions to try to stem the spread of the virus, which has now killed more than 320,000 people in the United States. "Jill and I send our prayers, as I'm sure all of you do, to all that are facing this dark winter," he said, referring to his wife.
The day before, Biden got vaccinated on live television as part of an effort to reassure people that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.
"I look forward to the second shot, and I have absolute confidence in the vaccine," Biden said. "But we're in short supply."
On the $900 billion coronavirus aid bill passed by Congress on Monday, Biden called the bill a "down payment" on a broader relief bill he plans to introduce when he takes office in January.
"Like all compromises, this is far from perfect," Biden said. "Congress did their job this week, and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year."
On Tuesday, Biden's team also announced a new round of White House staff appointments, led by longtime aide Bruce Reed as deputy chief of staff. Reed served as Biden's chief of staff during his first term as vice president and has long been a close member of Biden's inner circle of advisers.
But throughout the weeks of speculation over Biden's Cabinet selections, progressives have expressed concerns about what they see as Reed's moderate political views and fiscal conservatism.
Progressives notched a win in the latest round of staff announcements, however, with the appointment of Gautam Raghavan as deputy director of the office of presidential personnel. Raghavan served as chief of staff to Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in his new position he'll help evaluate applicants for thousands of federal jobs and appointments throughout the administration.
Biden has also appointed Anne Filipic as director of management and administration, Ryan Montoya as director of scheduling and advance, Vinay Reddy as director of speechwriting and Elizabeth Wilkins as a senior adviser to the chief of staff. All are alumni of the Obama-Biden administration, and Montoya and Reddy worked on Biden's campaign as well.