US president-elect Joe Biden pleaded with Americans to wear face masks on Monday after the first meeting of his new coronavirus taskforce.
In a 10-minute address from Wilmington, Delaware, Democrat Mr Biden said thousands of lives could be saved if “everyone would just wear a mask”.
“I implore you to wear a mask,” he said. “A mask is not a political statement.”
He also said: “It could even save your own life.”
In the past week, Covid-19 was diagnosed in one in 433 Americans. Hospitals in several states are running out of space and staff, and the death toll is soaring.
The US has recorded more than 10 million infections and more than 243,000 deaths from Covid-19.
Prior to the meeting on Monday, which was conducted by video call, Mr Biden released a list of members for his transitional advisory council on the pandemic.
It is led by former surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University public health expert Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith.
Also notable among the task force members is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert and former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Dr Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was demoted after resisting political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, as a Covid-19 treatment.
Other members include Luciana Borio, a biodefence specialist; Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and bioethics chair at the National Institutes of Health; Dr Atul Gawande, a Clinton administration health advisor and surgery expert; Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert who has studied HIV/Aids and tuberculosis; Dr Julie Morita, a paediatric and immunisation specialist; Dr Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist; Loyce Pace, a global health specialist; Dr Robert Rodriguez, an emergency medicine expert who has researched the mental health of Covid-19 responders; and Dr Eric Goosby, an infectious disease expert who has worked on HIV/Aids.
Also on Monday, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced promising results from a vaccine trial.
The company, which developed the vaccine with the German drugmaker BioNTech, said it is on track to file an emergency use application with US regulators later this month.
Interim analysis of the Pfizer vaccine, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in its study, in which about 44,000 people in the US and five other countries enrolled.
Mr Biden noted the positive news of the vaccine’s progress but also called for caution.
He said cases could climb by a further 200,000 before immunisation is widely available and that the US is “still facing a very dark winter”.