By SARAH MUCHA
President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced the group of public health experts that will make up his coronavirus advisory board, which includes Rick Bright, a whistleblower from the Trump administration who alleged that his early warnings about the pandemic were ignored and ultimately led to his removal.
The inclusion of Bright, who said that he was met with skepticism by Trump administration officials when he raised concerns in the early throes of the pandemic about critical supplies shortages, is a clear signal of the contrasted direction that Biden intends to take his administration when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.
Revealing the members of the pandemic task force is the transition’s first major announcement, highlighting how important the President-elect finds combating the deadly virus which has taken more than 230,000 lives in the United States. The announcement also comes as the nation nears 10 million cases, with over 9.9 million reported cases as of Sunday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The task force is chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. Among the other 13 members are Dr. Luciana Borio, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act and an ex-Obama health adviser.
Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were scheduled to receive a briefing from the transition coronavirus advisory board Monday afternoon, per a Sunday evening release from the transition team. Biden would then deliver remarks on his plans to combat the virus and to rebuild the American economy.
The transition team shared Biden’s COVID plan, which was previously on his campaign website, on its newly revealed website Sunday.
Since the outset of the pandemic, Biden pledged repeatedly on the campaign trail that he would listen to the advice from scientists and public health experts about the pandemic if elected president and slammed President Donald Trump’s handling of the virus. In his first remarks as the President-elect, he said he believes the mandate given to the American people includes marshaling “the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.” The first such battle Biden cited was that to control the virus.
It’s reminiscent of the focus that Biden, and former President Barack Obama, devoted to the economy when they won the White House 12 years ago in the midst of a deep economic crisis. That is the mindset that Biden is taking towards the coronavirus, aides say, in hopes of trying to prevent the pandemic from worsening before they take office on Jan. 20.
The coronavirus upended the presidential election and provided a stark divide in the race, with Biden pledging to take the pandemic seriously, while Trump diminished the importance of the virus and often complained that it was taking up too much focus on the campaign trail – even after he contracted it himself.