From bans to Dr. Fauci: That is how President-elect Joe Biden plans to struggle the coronavirus pandemic
The US can expect more Covid-19 tests, a national mask policy and the possibility of nationwide bans as soon as President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.
The Biden-Harris campaign put forward a step-by-step plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic that includes more testing, increased use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture protective equipment for frontline workers, and reestablishing U.S. relations with the World Health Organization. The transition team wasted no time and on Monday announced its own Covid-19 Advisory Board, chaired by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, the former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the Assistant Dean of Health Equity Research, are at the Yale School of Medicine.
Currently, Covid-19 outbreaks are worsening in communities across the country as cases hit record levels of more than 100,000 cases per day and scientists warn Americans to prepare for a difficult winter. In the meantime, potential vaccines round off the final turn to emergency approval as states formulate how they’ll distribute the doses – despite numerous uncertainties and a lack of federal funding.
President Donald Trump, who denies the results of the race, has pointed to the historically rapid development of drugs against the virus as part of the government’s Operation Warp Speed while downplaying the threat posed by the disease. Trump, who spent three days in hospital with Covid-19 last month, has also made allegations in recent weeks that Biden would shut down the economy if he wins the election.
“This election is a choice between a Trump boom and a Biden lockdown,” Trump said in Arizona, while insisting that the pandemic is changing for the better, although data suggests it actually isn’t.
Biden has repeatedly said he would give scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, listen.
“I would be willing to do anything to save lives because we can’t get the country moving until we have the virus under control,” said ABC News’ Biden David Muir during an August interview with new Vice President Kamala Harris. “To keep the country going, and the economy to grow and people to work, you have to fix the virus.”
“I would turn it off. I would listen to the scientists,” he said.
A national strategy
In contrast, the Trump administration has allowed state governors to decide whether and when to close or reopen businesses, set mask requirements, and purchase their own testing materials and personal protective equipment.
“It was 50 states from the start going in 50 different directions,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and former assistant secretary of health for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, told CNBC.
“As a result, we have seen this rolling thunder of sickness and death that continued and counted until the tenth month,” he said.
Biden’s plan, on the other hand, provides for a coordinated national strategy. This would include wider application of the Defense Production Act, which Trump was reluctant to apply early on to ensure the U.S. has more supply than demand for essential health devices like masks and face shields.
Plans also include significantly increasing testing in the country by doubling the number of drive-through locations – at least 10 per state – and investing in home testing. So far, the country’s response to coronavirus has been dependent on molecular testing, which requires laboratory equipment and trained personnel. The White House announced in August that it would purchase 150 million rapid tests under a $ 750 million agreement with Abbott Laboratories.
In addition, Biden said he would set up a US public health professions corps to “mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country” to support efforts to trace contacts, largely left to the states, to populations of higher order Organize and support risk.
“We should invest a lot more money in testing and tracking,” Biden said in a recent interview with CBS ’60 Minutes.
Biden has called for national mask requirements, although experts say it is unclear how this would be carried out. In an October 23 speech, Biden said he would “go to every governor and ask them to authorize the wearing of masks in their states.” And if that doesn’t work, Biden said he would reach out to mayors and district leaders to set up local mandates.
Masks would be needed in all federal buildings and interstate transportation systems under his authority as President, he added.
Biden would also instruct the CDC to provide evidence-based guidance to communities on when to close some stores or schools based on the level of virus spread, according to the campaign’s Covid plan. The CDC would have the power to guide states when to put reasonable limits on collecting sizes and when to issue stay-at-home orders.
Those plans could change once he’s in office, and a nationwide lockdown could still be avoided.
“We are still three months away from the inauguration,” said Zeke Emanuel, bioethicist and oncologist who advises Biden on health issues. “I don’t know where we’ll be then, and a lot depends on what we do now.”
Emanuel stated in an interview that there are new Covid-19 hotspots as well as spikes across the country. But he also said that Americans have adapted since the beginning of the pandemic. When New York City was on the rise in March, residents took public health guidelines very seriously.
A better course of action could be for Biden to bring states together to get local political leaders to set an example. This may not involve a complete lockdown, but it may require careful planning and preparation before opening bars for indoor drinking or venues to large crowds.
Dr. Fauci and the WHO
Shortly before the election, Trump announced he could fire Fauci, who is a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the country’s foremost infectious disease expert. He has advised six US presidents who go back to Ronald Reagan.
A “Fire Fauci” shout broke out during a Trump rally on Sunday evening as the president defended his handling of the virus. In response to the chant, Trump said, “Don’t tell anyone, but let me wait until shortly after the election.”
However, Fauci previously told CNBC that he was ready to continue his work in the fight against Covid-19 despite being the president. Biden announced his support for Fauci and later tweeted in response Monday, “We need a president who actually listens to experts like Dr. Fauci.”
“We haven’t had regular national White House press conferences introducing and empowering the best public health scientists like Dr. Fauci,” said Koh, adding that Trump joined the White House task force earlier this year, but these briefings have done so since gone.
“I would expect him to reintroduce regular briefings under President Biden, reorganized by the White House, but empowering top scientists to impart their knowledge and guidance on behalf of the American people,” he said.
Biden’s plan also includes mending the United States’ tarnished relationship with the World Health Organization after Trump began severing financial commitments to the global health agency.
“You cannot fight a global pandemic without a global approach and allies,” said Ron Klain, the former White House Ebola Response Coordinator who allegedly runs for Biden’s chief of staff, in a campaign ad in July.
Put in a vaccine
When Biden takes office in January, it is likely that the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be made available to priority populations such as health care workers and the elderly across the country, experts say.
Each state has presented the CDC with a plan on how to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans against Covid-19 once that vaccine is approved. However, associations representing state and local health departments have called for more than $ 8 billion to fund the plans.
That money would help increase health workers, improve data systems, pay for the ultra-cold freezers needed to store some vaccines, and prepare educational materials to allay people’s potential safety concerns.
Biden’s plan is to invest $ 25 billion in vaccine development and distribution to ensure “every American gets away with it for free.” Under Biden, the US would also call for the creation of a global health emergency committee that would convene G7 leaders and others in support of WHO to offset the cost of vaccine use in developing countries.
The WHO has already established the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX), which includes more than 170 nations, to work with vaccine manufacturers to provide “equitable access to safe and effective vaccines” for countries. The Trump administration said in early September that the US would not join the initiative.
“A vaccine discovery is not enough if it is spread in the same kind of fiasco as Trump’s testing mess,” Klain said in the July ad.