- President-elect Joe Biden is appointing a “COVID coordinator” to give him daily briefings, his incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said, according to the Associated Press (AP).
- President Donald Trump by contrast barely meets his task force, members of which have noted how rarely they get access to him.
- Klain criticised the Trump administration’s refusal to authorise Biden’s transition, which he said slows Biden’s ability to prepare to tackle the pandemic.
- The White House told the AP that Trump is “regularly briefed” on the virus, but did not specify when he last met the task force.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President-elect Joe Biden plans to appoint a COVID-19 coordinator to give him daily briefings on the coronavirus, his incoming chief of staff told MSNBC.
Ronald Klain told the network on Thursday night that the individual will lead a team of people who will oversee the distribution of a vaccine and improve access to testing, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The appointment highlights a contrast with President Donald Trump, who has publicly disengaged from the virus and rarely speaks with members of his coronavirus task force.
In late October, National Institutes for Health (NIH) Director Dr Francis Collins told NPR that Trump had not met his task force “in quite some time.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force, complained over the summer about being sidelined by the president, and told Newsweek on Tuesday that he had not spoken to the president for more than a month.
Trump does not attend task force meetings and was not at one on Monday, the AP reported.
Instead, the president receives updates from Vice President Mike Pence and the maverick advisor Dr Scott Atlas, who has feuded with other members of the task force.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews did not respond to Business Insider’s questions about when Trump last met with members of the task force, but told the AP that the president is “regularly briefed.”
In a general statement to Business Insider, she said: “President Trump and his Administration remain focused on saving lives as Operation Warp Speed continues to fast track treatments and vaccines in record time.
“The Task Force is in constant contact with state and local jurisdictions and health care providers, and continues to promote common sense mitigation measures.
“We routinely provide data, analysis, and recommendations, and surge PPE, medical personnel, and capacity when they are needed.”
Trump has demonstrated little public interest in the recent spread of the virus in the US, despite the record speed with which Americans are being infected.
A review of COVID-19 related terms in his Twitter feed shows that he has been more preoccupied with the political implications of an announcement by Pfizer about the efficacy of its vaccine.
Trump, who had publicly hoped a breakthrough with his vaccine effort Operation Warp Speed would help his election chances, was furious when the pharmaceutical company announced six days after the Election Day that its vaccine was 90% effective.
Trump said in a November 10 tweet: “As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn’t have the courage to do it before.
“Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!”
Pfizer is not part of Operation Warp Speed and has not received government assistance in developing its vaccine.
Biden’s plan to tackle COVID-19
Klain’s announcement of a “COVID coordinator” sheds some light on Biden’s plan to tackle the pandemic, which Klain told MSNBC Thursday would be one of the first items the then-president will address when he takes office in January.
In the MSNBC interview, Klain expressed frustration at the Trump administration’s continued refusal to authorise transition procedures, particularly in how they impact his future ability to handle the pandemic.
“COVID’s a really good example,” he said. “We’re in a COVID crisis right now. Right now there are officials inside the Department of Health and Human Services who are busy planning a vaccination campaign for the months of February and March, when Joe Biden will be president.”
Dr. Abraar Karan, a global health specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told the AP that the pandemic is in “complete crisis” and needed immediate attention.
“We already know where this is headed,” he said. “It’s not good enough to say we’re going to wait until the next president to address this.”
Public health expert at Georgetown University’s law school Lawrence Gostin told the AP that Biden would only be positioned to “scratch the surface” of the pandemic by the time he takes office.
“I fear the next three months ahead could be the worst we’ve faced during the pandemic,” he told the agency. “America is like a ship at storm, and the captain has decided to go play golf.”