There are many uncertainties ahead for the United States, including legal battles waged by Donald Trump over what he calls problematic ballots from last week’s election. But the election fallout is not the only swamp the US must wade through. With 10 million coronavirus cases in the US alone , the next administration must find a way through the bog of Covid-19. Although a few states are still counting ballots, Joe Biden declared victory in the presidential race and started his transition plan by forming an expert team to handle Covid-19 – a clear sign that reining in the pandemic will be his priority. Biden is eager to appear a rational person who respects science – in contrast to Trump’s erratic responses to the disease. But he faces many constraints and there is no magic cure for the situation. First, it is up to the governors of each state, not the federal administration, to decide on containment measures, from lockdowns to social distancing, and whether to make wearing masks compulsory. Biden has touted the idea of a nationwide mask order, but experts say that a federal command could face legal challenges and would be difficult to enforce. It would be even more contentious now that the US is so deeply divided. Second, Biden, like Trump, will have to balance economic recovery and pandemic control. Many states saw a spike in cases when they gradually reopened. The same happened in Europe. Third, Biden has to tread carefully in balancing personal freedom and with the intrusions of contact tracing. China has hailed its ability to contain outbreaks with its zero tolerance policy. But the Chinese approach only works in a tightly controlled society where local officials can knock on the door of every home and require people to take swab tests. It also takes hi-tech surveillance technology to determine the whereabouts of each person. This cannot be replicated in other countries, particularly in the US where a high value is placed on personal freedom. Trump has hailed vaccines as the ultimate hope, with his Operation Warp Speed investing heavily in vaccine development. But many scientists are worried that the vaccines may only be able to prevent symptoms, not infections, meaning that transmission will continue even if a vaccine is available. However, if a vaccine does prove effective, the timing means the credit will likely go to Biden – and not to his contender in the presidential race.