Just hours after good news of a promising vaccine rolled in, the Biden-Harris trasition team today announced appointees to its covid-19 advisory board. According to the Washington Post, at least two of the advisory board co-chairs, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and Obama-era Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, have been briefing Biden for months.
Unlike a certain a task force which is comprised both of public health experts and an absolute ghoul who won’t even wear a mask in a hospital, Biden’s 13-member advisory council reflects a command of public health issues. For a sense of the range of expertise, appointees include: Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine; Dr. Eric Goosby, the founding director of the largest federal HIV/AIDs program; Dr. Robert Rodriguez, a professor of emergency medicine and frontline doctor; Dr. Luciana Borio, a former leader in the FDA and National Security Council; and Dr. Rick Bright, a previous advisor for the World Health Organization. The group’s well-rounded specialties show that Biden and Harris are seeking advice on equal healthcare access for underserved populations, national security, vaccine development, health policy, front line work, medical technology, global health, HIV/AIDs response, and of course, epidemiology.
Today, in a coherent address in which each sentence logically followed the preceding statement, Biden appeared stable and well-rested. He said he plans on investing in a “corps” of contact tracers, an effort which virtually all European countries implemented as soon as possible. He pledged to aid local leaders such as mayors and governors, on both sides of the aisle. He promised widespread rapid testing—which at a minimum includes free tests at ten drive-through centers per state—and to prioritize vaccines for at-risk populations.
In other words, he rose to the leadership standard other nations have already adopted, an absolutely jaw-dropping contrast to Donald Trump’s total disinterest in discussing the pandemic, a subject he considers a buzzkill.
In the most stark rebute of Trump’s covid response, though, Biden acknowledged that “this virus is hitting the black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islanders, Native American communities harder than white communities”—and he added that focusing on them will be “one of our priorities, not an afterthought.” We’ve seen absolutely zero concern for those communities from the current administration, which stalled pandemic relief for tribal communities and took land from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe while the rest of country was busy trying not to contract a deadly illness.
As fundamental and obvious this whole plan is eight months into the pandemic, it highlights the fact that Trump has been utterly derelict in his duty to the country.
The remarks also make for a lovely coda to the sporadic briefings in months past, which devolved into an unhinged theory about bleach, largely disappeared, and then returned accompanied by Trump’s whining that his advisors were more popular than him. The Trump Administration’s general pandemic attitude will likely be memorialized in the words of chief of staff Mark Meadows: “We’re not going to control the pandemic.”
Depressingly, much of the plan’s success might hinge on whether old white guy folksiness can win over anti-maskers. Biden framed mask-wearing as both an act of compassion and American strength. “It doesn’t matter who you voted for,” he said, adding that defending our nation is “the character of patriots.” Let’s call them “Freedom Masks” maybe! Whatever!
Several outlets have pointed out that he’ll have trouble getting this on the runway between now and January while Republicans continue to squabble over the validity of the election results. The New York Times reports that Trump seems to have no intention of welcoming Biden to a transition meeting, and the Washington Post has reported that the Biden camp even expects the Trump Administration to illegally block access to government resources before January 20th. As elections results trickled in last week, Johns Hopkins reported the United States reached a record high of 761,157 new cases; just today the country broke 10 million covid cases since the pandemic began.
In his speech, Biden reiterated that this will be a “dark winter.”