When President-elect Joe Biden steps into White House in January, he will inherit two inextricably linked crises: The worsening COVID-19 pandemic and a wide-reaching recession. As U.S. coronavirus cases are spiking to all-time highs, he will be responsible for keeping Americans safe while guiding a fragile economy through recovery.
That’s a tall order—and a somewhat paradoxical one. A fully open economy will most certainly lead to more viral spread and likely result in more deaths, while a closed economy could contain the virus but bring about even more financial hardship. And as the weather cools and fewer people want to dine, drink or otherwise spend time outside, it will become even harder to find the right mix of policies to both curb spread and keep businesses (and their employees) afloat.
Biden has already demonstrated a more hands-on approach to the pandemic than U.S. President Donald Trump. In his first order of business after being projected the winner, the President-elect established a COVID-19 advisory board to guide his thinking and work with state and local health officials. The group, Biden’s transition team says, will develop public-health strategies based on scientific information to “reopen our schools and businesses safely and effectively,” among other goals.
Still, the task at hand will be difficult, to say the least. The following five charts show what Biden and his Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, are up against as they prepare to take the oaths of office.