IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden's first task is his most crucial and obvious: Vaccinate America

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Elderly people, who are 65 and over, wait in line at the Department of Health Sarasota Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Sarasota, Fla.
Elderly people, who are 65 and over, wait in line at the Department of Health Sarasota Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Sarasota, Fla.Octavio Jones / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Facing a pessimistic public, holding middling poll numbers for an incoming president (higher than Trump’s, lower than Obama’s) and dealing with a predecessor who’s yet to concede the election he lost, Joe Biden isn’t getting much of a honeymoon.

But Biden has this going for him after he takes the oath of office on Wednesday: one clear job — to get vaccines into as many American arms as possible.

Nothing he will say in his inaugural address and no executive order he will issue in his first days will be more important than achieving his goal of injecting 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days as president.

If he gets that right, he will oversee a less pessimistic American public; he’ll get a stronger economy; and he’ll do something that his predecessor was unable to execute in his final days.

If Biden doesn't get it right, however, he’ll fail on the job he was elected to do.

It’s one competency test — with big stakes, but also a clear mission: make government competent again.

Missing in Action

That brings us to Trump and his final full day in the White House.

With the U.S. coronavirus death toll now surpassing 400,000 fatalities and with states across the country struggling to dispense their vaccines, it hasn’t gotten enough attention just how MIA the outgoing president has been since the election.

Just think of the challenges this country is facing.

A raging pandemic that’s only become more deadly. (More than 170,000 American have died since Election Day.)

Fears of more political violence ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration.

And the current president of the United States isn’t doing much more than issuing daily guidance emails that read: “President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

24,177,574: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 143,115 more than yesterday morning.)

400,103: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,415 more than yesterday morning.)

123,848: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

283.99 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

20 percentage points: The difference among Democrats between those who say the country is off on the wrong track (57 percent) and those who say it’s on the right track (37 percent.)

83 percentage points: The same difference among Republicans, with 90 percent saying the country’s on the wrong track and just 7 percent saying it’s on the right one.

1 in 3: The share of Europeans who say the U.S. can no longer be trusted, per a new poll.

1: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Tweet of the day

Biden’s upcoming 10-day blitz

After Joe Biden is sworn in as president tomorrow, he’ll quickly begin a 10-day blitz of executive orders.

On Wednesday, Biden is expected to: rejoin the Paris climate change agreement; reverse President Trump’s travel ban (which applied to several Muslim-majority counties); require a mask mandate on federal property and interstate travel for at least 100 days; and extend eviction and foreclosure restrictions.

On Thursday, Biden will sign executive actions regarding reopening schools and businesses. By Friday the president-elect will “direct his Cabinet agencies to take immediate action to deliver economic relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis,” according to a memo made available to NBC News.

Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said that in Biden’s first 10 days in office he will take “decisive action” to tackle four overlapping crises: Covid-19, the economic downturn, climate change and the racial equity crisis.

Also happening today, Biden’s first five secretary-designees will have their Senate confirmation hearings:

Janet Yellen, Treasury

Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence

Antony Blinken, State

Lloyd Austin, Defense

Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security

The Lid: First impressions

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we did a deep dive into what we can learn from Jill Biden’s latest poll numbers.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what Biden has promised in his first 100 days. (And here’s how his transition team managed to meet its goals in an unprecedented era.)

And here’s a statistical look at Trump’s four years in office.

The Washington Post looks at why the House Sergeant-at-Arms was resistant to having National Guard troops in place at the Capitol before January 6.

How does the physical transition from one First Family to another happen? The New York Times takes a look.

According to the FBI, QAnon members discussed posing as National Guardsmen in Washington, the Washington Post writes.

Here’s what some historians have to say about that 1776 report.

What has the outgoing First Lady been focused on?

The director of the Census Bureau has resigned.

Trump wants to end some international air travel restrictions related to Covid. Incoming Biden officials swiftly called it a bad idea.

The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for Biden’s pick for top spy.

Josh Hawley has a new publisher for his book after being dropped by a prominent one after January 6.