Biden delivers Thanksgiving address urging US unity in battle against COVID-19

President-elect Joe Biden delivered a Thanksgiving address to Americans on Wednesday ahead of the holiday, discussing the current coronavirus surge and calling for the personal responsibility of each citizen to help limit the spread of the disease. 

“We’re at war with the virus, not with one another,” Biden said during remarks from Wilmington, Delaware.

The president-elect asked Americans to maintain public safety measures over the holidays and noted the death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. 

“For those that lost a loved one, I know this time of year can be especially difficult,” he said. Biden’s eldest son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

The former vice president said that while the country awaits the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, there are still “months of this battle ahead of us.”

Biden’s remarks come at a critical juncture for the country as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, with new cases surging in many states.

President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on Nov. 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

In October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thanksgiving guidelines which advised against larger family gatherings and travel over the holiday season.

The nation is averaging 172,000 new virus cases per day, nearly doubling since the end of October, according to Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations, deaths and the test positivity rate are also up sharply as the nation approaches Thanksgiving.

“Many local health systems at risk of being overwhelmed. That’s the plain and simple truth,” Biden added.

In response to the concerning spike, elected officials have imposed restrictions that, with some exceptions, fall short of the broad-based stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns seen in the spring.

RELATED: CDC updates coronavirus Thanksgiving guidance, urges against travel

Utah and Vermont have banned all social gatherings. So have local governments in Philadelphia and Dane County, Wisconsin. In Kentucky, no more than eight people from two households are permitted to get together; in Oregon, the gathering limit is six. California has imposed an overnight curfew. More states are requiring masks, including those with GOP governors who have long resisted them. The nation’s top health officials are pleading with Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned once again on Monday of the potentially dire consequences of gathering this holiday season.

RELATED: Anthony Fauci predicts when America will return to normal from coronavirus

“We’re in a very difficult situation where the rate of infection, the slope of infections, are really very, very steep. So you might want to reconsider travel plans," Fauci said in an interview with Washington Post Live. He added that indoor holiday gatherings “as innocent and wonderful as they sound” should be kept to a minimal number of people, preferably “just members of a household" and also warned of a potential “surge superimposed upon a surge” if precautions aren't taken.

Fauci predicted the country could see “well over” 300,000 deaths by the end of the year “if we don’t we turn things around.”

Biden, for his part, has said that he won’t shut down the U.S. economy, but the president-elect has stressed the link between the surging virus and negative economic impacts. The message from Biden to local health officials is that the best way to get the economy back on track is to get the virus under control until a vaccine is widely available.

RELATED: Biden unveils Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board to 'help shape' approach to coronavirus pandemic

Earlier this month, Biden picked members to form his COVID-19 response team. The team will be co-chaired by Dr. David Kessler, who is a University of California professor, and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor from Yale University, will also serve as a co-chair.

RELATED: First U.S. coronavirus vaccinations could happen Dec. 12

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s experimental vaccine for the coronavirus, which the companies said is 95% effective. A FDA committee will livesteam a public hearing on the vaccine Dec. 10th. 

If approved for emergency use, the company hopes to roll out the vaccine shortly after. But widespread distribution of the vaccine is expected to be one of the earliest challenges faced by the incoming Biden administration.

The first, limited shipments of the vaccine would mark just the beginning of what could be a long and messy road toward the end of the pandemic that has upended life and killed more than a quarter-million people in the U.S. In the meantime, Americans are being warned not to let their guard down.

Most people will probably have to wait months for shots to become widely available. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also each require two doses, meaning people will have to go back for a second shot after three and four weeks, respectively, to get the full protection.

“If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting; you keep going until the cavalry gets here, and then you might even want to continue fighting,” Fauci said last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Los Angeles and Cincinnati.