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President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington last night. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

America got quite a respite yesterday from this bleak year: A woman of color became the first American to get the COVID vaccine; Democracy worked, as the Electoral College voted in 50 state capitals; And President-elect Biden called on the nation to "turn the page."

Yes, but: Biden is trying to prepare us for what incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow will be "a very, very, very dark winter," with "probably tens of thousands of deaths left before the end of the year."

  • Biden said as he celebrated the certification of his victory: "My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic, about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts."

Why it matters: Biden and his team want Americans to reckon with the pain — they use the word "dark" a lot — he'll inherit. It also sets up the possibility of hope — and light — in 2021 if the virus fades and jobs rebound. 

  • Not to be a bummer, but several people around Biden worry the light is farther away than most think, which could hamper his presidency. 

In addition to the COVID death toll that passed 300,000 yesterday, and likely will accelerate in the weeks ahead, there's the mounting financial devastation. These are among the looming cliffs that will beset Biden:

  • Pandemic unemployment benefits for millions expire Dec. 26.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, out today, finds that small businesses "anticipate the worst of the pandemic is still ahead": 50% of the 1,000 entrepreneurs polled "see their operations continuing for a year or less in the current business climate before having to permanently close."
  • Foreclosure and eviction moratoriums expire Dec. 31: "Between 2.4 million and 5 million American households are at risk in January alone," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

The big picture: Biden will take office with thousands of people dying daily, full vaccination months away, President Trump taunting him from the Twitter sidelines, the government rattled by an epic cyberattack, China asserting its power, and Americans divided like never before. To the victor goes the spoils.

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Go deeper

L.A. becomes first county to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases

COVID-19 mass-vaccination of healthcare workers takes place at Dodger Stadium. Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County officials said Saturday they had detected the county's first case of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Why it matters: The announcement came as L.A. became the first county to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, straining the area's already overwhelmed health care system.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jan 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What business wants from Biden

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Top corporate leaders tell me President-elect Biden's Cabinet and West Wing picks appear to be animated more by competence than by ideology, making business optimistic about working with the new administration.

Why it matters: Biden will probably ultimately raise the taxes of these CEOs and other executives. But after the Trump years, what CEOs really want is a government that functions and that they can deal with comfortably.

Biden outlines plan to reverse Trump policies on first day of presidency

President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will roll back some of President Trump's most controversial policies and address "four overlapping and compounding crises" in his first 10 days in office — the pandemic, the economic downturn, climate change and racial inequity.

Driving the news: The plan is outlined in a memo from incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain Saturday. Following Biden's inauguration Wednesday, he'll "sign roughly a dozen actions to combat the four crises," Klain said.