Nov. 9, 2020 -- President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Monday announced its coronavirus task force, a group of doctors and scientists that will advise the incoming administration on a way to try to stem the pandemic.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a statement. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”
Biden has already attended coronavirus briefings and planning sessions this week, and next week will be focused on a pandemic plan and health care, The New York Times reported.
“We’re not waiting to get the work done,” he said in a speech on Friday night.
On Monday, Biden spoke to reporters and said his task force will create a “blue print we can put in place as soon as Kamala and I are sworn in,” he said, referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. It will be a plan, he said, “built on the bedrock of science.”
Among the goals Biden outlined was to restore America’s leadership around the world and to build “a corps of contact tracers who will track and curb this disease while we prioritize getting vaccines ready and delivered,” which is needed to get schools reopened and the economy back on track, he said.
His administration will focus on “scaling up production of life-saving treatments and therapeutics, and, when it’s ready, making sure an approved vaccine is distributed equitably and efficiently to every American for free.”
The president-elect also urged all Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“It doesn’t matter who you voted for,” he said, or “where you stood before Election Day. It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives, American lives.”
Biden’s COVID-19 task force has 10 members and three co-chairs. The co-chairs are Vivek Murthy, MD, a former surgeon general; David Kessler, MD, a former FDA commissioner; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, associate dean for health equity research at Yale School of Medicine. The three were featured as part of a COVID-19 briefing that Biden held last month, and Murthy has been privately advising Biden on the coronavirus for months.
The other members are:
- Luciana Borio, MD, vice president at In-Q-Tel. She is also a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Rick Bright, PhD, an immunologist, virologist, and former public health official. Bright was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority from 2016 to 2020 and the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, an oncologist, vice provost for global initiatives, and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Atul Gawande, MD, a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, and professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Celine Gounder, MD, a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine who cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center.
- Julie Morita, MD, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Morita was health commissioner for the city of Chicago for nearly 2 decades.
- Michael Osterholm, PhD, regents professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
- Loyce Pace, executive director and president of the Global Health Council.
- Robert Rodriguez, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine, where he works in the emergency department and intensive care unit of two major trauma centers.
- Eric Goosby, MD, an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and a professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine.
The current White House Coronavirus Task Force has been mostly inactive as President Donald Trump has said the country is “rounding the turn” on the coronavirus. This week, the U.S. broke records 3 days in a row, with over 100,000 new cases daily -- more than 130,000 reported on Friday -- and will pass 10 million total cases today.
About half of the nation’s states have announced record highs during the past week as well. Nearly 55,000 people were hospitalized with the virus this weekend, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a number that has gradually been rising since the beginning of October.
Although Biden doesn’t take office until Jan. 20, the task force is coming up with plans now to go into effect as soon as that happens, such as increased testing and more personal protective gear.
The group is also focused on making sure vaccines are safe and work well, as well as protecting at-risk groups, according to Politico. Sub-groups of officials will oversee COVID-19 therapeutics, guidance for schools, and state coordination as well.
“We are still 11 weeks away from the inauguration -- that’s a potentially dangerous and damaging time for the American public with the virus still raging,” Kathleen Sebelius, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told Politico.
“So hopefully this [new task force] can give the American public some confidence that they’re not on their own, that the pandemic isn’t a Democratic plot, that the numbers are very real and that we have choices,” she said.