Amid record-setting numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in dozens of states, public health officials and experts are now calling on the Trump administration to start working with President-elect Joe Biden’s team on the national coronavirus response.
For White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the transition period in the White House is absolutely critical in the months-long battle against the pandemic.
“It’s almost like passing a baton in a race,” he said in a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You don’t want to stop, and then give it to somebody, you want to just essentially keep going.”
Biden has already announced a coronavirus advisory board, which is co-chaired by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine.
Despite the proactive moves by the incoming administration, Fauci admitted that President Donald Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting in months. Moreover, the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, has yet to sign the necessary paperwork for the presidential transition process to get under way.
“Those dialogues are critical,” Murthy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There, you want to get them started as soon as possible.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy, political science, and law at UCLA. He told The National Interest that there could be “enormous consequences” in terms of more cases and deaths if the transition is mishandled in the coming months.
“How are we going to coordinate the rapid distribution of vaccines across the country?” he said. “They need to be produced and distributed, and that all rely on massive coordination.”
On Monday, Biden told reporters that “more people may die” if the Trump administration doesn’t begin coordinating with his team on plans to vaccinate more than 300 million Americans.
“If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month and a half,” he said. “And so, it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now.”
Peterson also noted that the lack of personal protective equipment has continued to hurt many states and hospitals during this devastating third wave. “We need complete transparency in coordination” in these types of efforts to help protect our frontline workers and the general public, he told TNI.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Biden’s coronavirus team hasn’t been allowed to speak to top health officials like Fauci, which is only hampering future mitigation efforts.
“Joe Biden’s going to become president of the United States in the midst of an ongoing crisis. That has to be a seamless transition,” he said. “Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.