President-elect Joe Biden warned that outgoing President Donald Trump's refusal to recognize the transition prior to the January 20 inauguration could have dire consequences amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"More people may die if we don't coordinate," Biden said in response to a reporter's question Monday in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden, again warning of a "very dark winter" ahead, called for immediate congressional passage of the HEROES Act — a proposed $3 trillion stimulus package in response to the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19.
"The idea the president is still playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension," Biden said, adding, "At least you'd think he'd want to go off on a positive note."
The president-elect said people are running out of unemployment insurance, 20 million people are on the verge of losing their homes because they cannot make mortgage payments, and "you have a larger number being kicked out and that will be kicked out on the street because they can't pay their rent."
Biden made the remarks following a briefing he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held on the state of the U.S. economy, which faces new headwinds with the surge in coronavirus cases. The spike in cases and hospitalizations has prompted some state governors and municipal officials to reimpose limits on business operations to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"To state the obvious, we are currently in a pretty dark hole right now, at least in regards to where we're headed with COVID," Biden said during a discussion with business and labor leaders.
Trump, who remained in the White House on Monday and made no public appearances, had the stock market on his mind in the morning, touting an announcement about a second coronavirus vaccine for causing a rise in share prices as the trading week began.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 470 points on Monday, a rise of 1.6%.
"Please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!" the president said on Twitter, referring to the efficacies of COVID-19 vaccines announced by Pfizer a week ago and Moderna on Monday.
"They appear to be ready for prime time — ready to be used," Biden said of the vaccines. He has criticized Trump for making statements that he said might make people hesitant to get inoculated.
Mass vaccinations across America may still be months away, while the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing to record numbers.
The United States has now recorded more than 246,000 coronavirus deaths and 11.1 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Both figures are the highest of any country.
The U.S. economy has recovered millions of the jobs lost in the first weeks of the pandemic in March and April when the unemployment rate hit 14.7%. The jobless rate improved to 6.9% in October, still nearly double the five-decade low figure of 3.5% recorded before the virus swept into the United States from China and Europe. Still, millions of jobs disappeared in the pandemic and may not be recovered, as new coronavirus infections surge throughout the country.
Biden's ability to shape the economic recovery is to a large degree contingent on the outcome of two runoff elections in the southern state of Georgia on January 5.
Republicans have already won 50 of the 100 seats in the Senate that takes office in early January. Democrats have 48. If incumbent Republicans win either or both of the Georgia elections, Republicans will continue to control the Senate for the next two years and limit the new president's options to advance his legislative agenda, including economic assistance to financially hard-pressed families.
If Democrats win the two elections in Georgia, Biden could gain leverage in a politically divided Senate, with Harris, as vice president, breaking tie votes in favor of his initiatives.
Trump has refused to concede his defeat while he pursues legal claims that the November 3 vote was rigged against him. He also cites what he calls irregularities in several states. State election officials have reported no serious irregularities with the vote that would impact the outcome of the race.
"I won," Trump tweeted on Monday.
"No, Biden won the election," The Associated Press stated in a fact-check story issued following the president's declaration on Twitter, noting the former vice president achieved victory in key states, topping the 270-electoral-vote threshold, with room to spare, to clinch the presidency.
A coalition of state election officials and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared in a joint statement that the election was the most secure in history and there is "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised."