Biden Names Coronavirus Advisory Board

November 9, 2020 by Dan McCue
President-elect Joe Biden listens during a meeting with Biden's COVID-19 advisory council, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden announced the members of his new coronavirus task force Monday morning, putting the contentious 2020 presidential campaign behind him and moving definitively on to the transition.

Biden said repeatedly during the campaign that “crushing” the pandemic once and for all would be his highest priority upon taking office in January.

He reiterated that statement on Monday, saying “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.”

The task force will develop the blueprint for doing so. It includes doctors and scientists who have served in previous administrations, many of them experts in public health, vaccines and infectious diseases.

Public health officials warn that the nation is entering the worst stretch yet for COVID-19 as winter sets in and the holiday season approaches, increasing the risk of rapid transmission as Americans travel, shop and celebrate with loved ones.

In fact, such is the concern over the status of the virus in December and January that there is already talk of foregoing the traditional presidential inaugural ceremony.

The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections a day, frequently breaking records for daily cases.

Hospitals in several states are running out of space and staff, and the death toll is rising. So far, the U.S. has recorded more than 9.8 million infections and more than 237,000 deaths from COVID-19.

During the campaign, Biden pledged to make testing free and widely available; to hire thousands of health workers to help implement contact-tracing programs; and to instruct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide clear, expert-informed guidelines, among other proposals.

The advisory board’s co-chairs are:

Dr. David Kessler, FDA commissioner under both President H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and currently a professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco;

Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the U.S. under President Barack Obama. He has dealt with the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, the Flint, Mich., water emergency and a number of natural disasters; and

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University, and the Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine.

The task force members are:

Dr. Luciana Borio, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, specializing in biodefense, emerging infectious diseases, medical product development, and complex public health emergencies. She served in senior leadership positions at the FDA and National Security Council, including as assistant commissioner for counterterrorism policy and acting chief scientist at the FDA, and dDirector of FDA’s office of counterterrorism and emerging threats.

Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist, virologist, and former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) from 2016 to 2020 and the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bright made headlines earlier this year by filing a whistleblower complaint in which he alleged he was reassigned to a lesser job because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor of Surgery at both Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, and a professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He previously served as a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine who also cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, regents professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.

Loyce Pace, executive director and president of Global Health Council.

Dr. Robert Rodriguez, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and currently serving as a professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine, where he works on the frontline in the emergency department and ICU of two major trauma centers.

Dr. Eric Goosby, an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and professor of Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. During the Clinton Administration, Dr. Goosby was the founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act, the largest federally funded HIV/AIDS program.

During his first remarks as president-elect, Biden said Saturday that his COVID-19 task force will create a plan “built on bedrock science” and “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.”

His surrogates, meanwhile, have spent the days since the election assuring the public the administration will be ready to respond to the pandemic.

“I think there’s a sense of urgency throughout,” said former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, on Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Sunday.”

Buttigieg, who is now on Biden’s transition team, added, “We know that every day is bringing more loss, more pain and more danger to the American people, and it’s why he’s not waiting until he’s taking office to begin immediately assembling people who have the right kind of expertise and planning to actually listen to them.”

On Capitol Hill, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said the Biden/Harris team’s swift formation of an advisory board on the coronavirus “should reassure the American people that crushing the virus and reviving our economy will be top priorities in the next White House.”

“For months, Senate Republicans have refused to vote on the Heroes Act, sweeping House-passed legislation that would meaningfully address the health and economic emergencies confronting the nation,” Neal said. “Due to that inaction and President Trump’s lack of leadership, there are fundamental steps we still need to take to tackle the pandemic effectively: developing and implementing a comprehensive testing and tracing strategy, equipping all frontline workers with the protective gear they require, ensuring a future vaccine is distributed equitably across the country, and providing state and local governments with resources to keep their communities safe.

“Ways and Means Democrats stand ready to work closely with the new administration to ensure that the Biden-Harris COVID plan succeeds and that our nation can finally recover from this crisis,” he said.

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