- The US needs to place a bigger emphasis on COVID-19 testing, Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, told the Financial Times.
- President Trump’s flagship COVID-19 scheme, “Operation Warp Speed” is a government program that funds vaccine development efforts by drugmakers. “We need to be funding not just vaccines,” Dr. Gounder said.
- A Biden administration would fund more testing, collecting data on cases, and supporting state and local government health departments, she said.
- “The state and local health departments have really been thrown into the deep end. They are treading water and they are drowning,” she said.
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President-elect Joe Biden’s administration should overhaul President Donald Trump’s flagship vaccine scheme, “Operation Warp Speed,” to focus on coronavirus testing, according to a member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory panel.
The Biden administration would allocate more funding to testing, collecting data on cases, and supporting state and local government health departments, who are currently “drowning,”Dr. Celine Gounder told the Financial Times.
The administration would also offer more “political backing” to local government, supporting “things that might be unpopular,” she said.
Warp Speed is a government program that funds vaccine development efforts by drugmakers, and has been allocated nearly $US10 billion by Congress.
“We need to be funding not just vaccines. I think another major area we need to be looking at is diagnostics,” Dr. Gounder, an infectious disease and global health expert at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, said.
The comments from Gounder, part of a 13-person COVID-19 panel that Biden announced Monday, is the latest hint at how the Biden administration will try to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The US should test more asymptomatic people, Gounder said, to help identify carriers of the virus who may be spreading it without realising.
Around 40% of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, according to estimates from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and their chances of transmitting the disease is around 75%.
Younger adults are more likely to be asymptomatic spreaders, Gounder told The Financial Times, adding: “You can’t possibly curb that without testing.”
Biden’s team plans to ramp up testing â€” and it also wants to collect more testing data, Gounder said. This would mean officials could better understand the scale of the outbreak.
“The most important thing is to have data,” she said.
When tests do come back as positive, the team plans to curb the spread of the disease by expanding contact tracing. Biden has proposed tripling the number of contact tracers by hiring a further 100,000.
Gounder also said local COVID-19 policies mean the US currently has a “very piecemeal response” to COVID-19, and measures vary greatly between states.
“The state and local health departments have really been thrown into the deep end. They are treading water and they are drowning,” she said.
Though she acknowledged this “patchiness” would likely continue, she said Biden’s team wants to provide more support to state and local public health departments.
This includes funding, guidance, and “political backing and cover when they are doing things that might be unpopular that will make a big difference,” she said.
Biden’s other pledges to improve COVID-19 testing include increasing production of rapid, at-home tests and establishing at least 10 drive-through testing sites per state.
On Wednesday, board member Michael Osterholm said that a US nationwide lockdown lasting four to six weeks would help control the coronavirus and revive the US economy.
“We could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year while bringing back the economy long before that,” he told Yahoo Finance.
Biden is also appointing a “COVID coordinator” to give him daily briefings, his incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said, according to the Associated Press. In comparison, Trump barely meets his coronavirus task force and its members rarely get access to him, a member said.