As Pa. cases rise, Biden calls for Americans to wear masks. Will it make a difference? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a rally in Wilmington, Del. on Saturday, 11/7/20 (Screen Capture)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

True to his word, President-elect Joe Biden pushed the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to the front of his embryonic administration’s agenda on Monday morning, as he announced the 13-member task force he’s formed to fight the worst public health threat in a century.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for, where you stood before Election Day,” Biden said in a brief remarks before the TV cameras, where he did not take questions. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months.”

He added: “Not Democratic or Republican lives — American lives,” the New York Times reported.

Biden’s remarks came as the United States cruised past 10 million COVID-19 cases and 238,000 deaths. And in the state of his birth, Pennsylvania, health officials announced 6,311 new cases of COVID-19 between Sunday and Monday. The tally brought the total of confirmed cases in the Keystone State to 234,296 cases in all 67 counties since the start of the pandemic. Thus far, 9,024 Pennsylvanians have died of the disease.

In his speech in Wlimington, Del., on Monday, Biden repeated his exhortation that Americans wear masks, an act that he said is not political, but practical.

“Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” he said, according to NBC News. “A mask is not a political statement, but it is a way to start pulling the country together.”

(Getty Images/Maine Beacon)

Biden’s messaging came in the midst of some actual good news about the virus: On Monday morning pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, announced that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was nearly 90 percent effective in trials, the Capital-Star’s Cassie Miller reported Monday. The announcement caused stocks to rally early Monday morning, according to NPR.

That good news was tempered a few hours later with the revelation that U.S. Housing & Urban Secretary Ben Carson, a former surgeon, had tested positive for the virusCNN reported. He is the second, senior Trump administration official to test positive within the last week.

Carson attended an election night party at the White House also attended by administration Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and others, who were not wearing a mask. Meadows, along with four other people in President Donald Trump’s orbit, later tested positiveCNN reported.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine briefs reporters on Monday, 10/26/20 (screen capture)

But with the nation so sharply divided, and with President Donald Trump still claiming that the race isn’t over, it’s fair to ask whether Biden’s message will reach those least inclined to wear a mask: Trump’s own supporters.

Past precedent isn’t encouraging. And that was reinforced by Saturday’s Pro-Trump rally behind the Capitol, where more than 1,000 mostly maskless MAGA supporters stood shoulder to shoulder for hours.

Through a spokesperson, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine acknowledged the magnitude of the difficulty of convincing all Pennsylvanians to wear masks after months of conflicting messaging at the highest reaches of government.

“As Dr. Levine mentioned in [Monday’s] press conference, we must all come together on this,” Health Department spokesman Nate Wardle said in an email to the Capital-Star. “There is concern, with the political nature of this, that people will not listen. However, we have seen many members of the Trump administration, including Surgeon General Jerome AdamsDr. [Anthony] FauciDr, Deborah Birx, etc. highlight the importance of wearing a mask and taking steps to protect one another.”

Echoing BidenLevine “has repeatedly said that she believes that wearing a mask is not a political issue. It is a public health issue,” Wardle continued. “We need all Pennsylvanians to take collective responsibility to protect themselves and others by wearing a mask and taking other actions to prevent the spread of the virus.”

So while Levine and other public health officials are still fighting an uphill battle in convincing a certain percentage of Americans to wear masks, they now have one thing that they didn’t have prior to the sun coming up on Monday: A president-elect who is working with them — rather than actively against them — in pursuit of that cause.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso
 previews internal leadership elections in the state House and Senate, and a biennial jockeying among legislative Democrats who faced some stinging rebukes at the polls on Tuesday.

Elizabeth Hardison goes deep on the data, looking at the Pennsylvania counties that pushed Joe Biden to victory.

Cassie Miller updates on the latest COVID-19 numbers in Pennsylvania, and how news of a potential vaccine might fit into state health officials’ plans to deal with the pandemic.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Ray E. Landis explains what President-elect Joe Biden’s win Saturday — and other election results — will mean for older Pennsylvanians. And a University of California/Berkeley expert explains why it’s a mistake to ever view the Latino vote as monolithic.

(Image via The Philadelphia Gay News)

Elsewhere,
The Inquirer
 runs down the catalogue of the Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania litigation and whether it can change the result in the Keystone State.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are backing the Trump campaign’s refusal to concede, the Post-Gazette reports.
The Trump campaign has asked a federal judge in Williamsport to block the certification of election results, PennLive reports.
Despite a projected $4 million budget deficit, seven public works employees in Wilkes-Barre were handed 25 percent raises, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM has a gallery of photos and videos from across Election Week 2020. 
Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak is pushing for an extension of CARES Act programs, the Observer-Reporter reports.
Erie’s postmaster is denying claims that his office mishandled ballots, GoErie reports.  
News of an effective COVID-19 is encouraging news for states, but distribution will be a challenge, Stateline.org reports.
Attorney General Bill Barr 
has set the Department of Justice loose to probe fake election fraud claims, Talking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 1 p.m. House Republicans, at least, are scheduled to hold leadership elections today.
11:30 a.m, Capitol Steps: ‘Drive Pa. Forward Event’ in support of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite from the veteran Washington D.C-based electronica act, Thievery Corporation, to get your Tuesday morning rolling, its ‘Holographic Universe.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
American women’s soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe has denounced England’s lack of investment in women’s football, saying it’s ‘disgraceful’ that it took Manchester United so long to revive its women’s squad, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press