Joe Biden will inherit Donald Trump's Covid legacy - how will he handle it?

Donald Trump (left) will be succeeded by Joe Biden (right) on January 20. Credit: AP

Donald Trump's presidency is over. His successor, Joe Biden, is being inaugurated on January 20 and with him will come new cabinet members and policies.

He will also involuntarily inherit features of Trump's tenure - most notably his bleak coronavirus legacy. In first weeks of 2021, daily case numbers in the US rose above 200,000 - now, they're creeping closer to 300,000. This month, daily deaths have sometimes surpassed 4,000, passing 4 million this week.

With these statistics in mind, Biden has said the nation's collective purpose is "to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal". How does he plan to make this happen?

Coronavirus under Trump

Since the pandemic began to spread globally in spring 2020, the US has had the highest daily confirmed cases in the world at most points in time.

From March 2020, the States has only ever been overtaken by India and Brazil - countries whose combined gross domestic product per capita is around £40,000 less than that of the US.

Despite the severity of the outbreak in the US, the president has continually downplayed Covid and its dangers (although he refutes this, saying if anything, he "up-played it, in terms of action”).

He didn't wear a mask in public until July, touted a discredited Covid treatment and repeatedly contradicted the advice of the government's top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci.  

  • Donald Trump and Dr Fauci publically clash

All in all, Trump's administration has been heavily criticised for the way it has handled the pandemic.

Trump, however, has steadfastly defended his management of the virus. For example, he has blamed high case numbers on high testing levels.

State authorities may also have a role in the Covid chaos. There are no federal coronavirus rules in the US, each state, each county within a state and, in some cases individual cities, have the power to make their own regulations.

What is being done to tackle coronavirus now?The US has approved two vaccines - Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. - but the rollout has been slower than hoped.

Earlier in January, the Trump administration announced a series of major changes to increase vaccine supply, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots.

Authorities also hope to halt infections through tougher restrictions. Health officials have also announced that anyone flying into the US will soon need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test.

It's hoped the requirement will stop travellers from bringing in newer variants of the virus.

However, within the US, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose new restrictions on businesses.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Credit: John Minchillo/AP

For instance, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the state "simply cannot stay closed" as businesses in his purview are suffering severely.

Meanwhile, Arizona governor Doug Ducey, refuses to implement a statewide mask mandate or the closing of bars, gyms and restaurants. 

What are Joe Biden's plans?

Biden has criticised Trump's handling of the virus throughout the pandemic. The President-elect has a more realistic approach to the virus - he recently acknowledged the US was facing “things will get worse before they get better”, despite the start of the vaccine rollout.

Biden has also knocked the pace of said rollout. In his "American Rescue Plan", Biden said he will administer 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of in office.His office said he will rapidly release most available vaccine doses - a reversal of Trump administration policies.

Biden's plan is to accelerate the shipment of first doses, then wield his administrative power to provide second doses in a timely manner.

President-elect Joe Biden has encouraged Americans to wear masks Credit: Alex Brandon/AP

The Trump administration has been holding back millions of doses to guarantee that people can get a second shot, which is seen to be a prudent approach.

Biden has also said he'll reopen most schools by the spring, provide $1,400 (£1,025) for most Americans, extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and prolong a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

Biden's choices for key healthcare officials point to a stronger federal role in the nation’s Covid-19 strategy.

States were sometimes left to figure things out themselves under Trump. For instance, the White House initially called them to test all care home residents without providing an infrastructure, only to have to correct this problem later.

“We are still going to have a federal, state and local partnership,” commented Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit American Public Health Association. “I just think there is going to be better guidance from the federal government and they are going to work more collaboratively with the states.”

Donald Trump listens as Dr Fauci speaks about the outbreak of coronavirus. Credit: AP

One of the most notable inclusions in Biden's team? Dr Fauci. He has been elevated to medical adviser - a move that points to an emphasis on science when it comes to Covid-19 strategy.

Finally, Joe Biden will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first presidential acts. It's a practice that public health experts say is one of the easiest ways to manage the pandemic.

The 100-day guideline is just one of the many strategies that will that set him apart from his predecessor. Biden and his team hope these differences mean America will gradually slip down a league table no one wants to top.