Nov 9, 2020 - Health

Biden unveils coronavirus crisis team tasked with curbing surging cases

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden attends a coronavirus briefing at The Queen theater on October 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Joe Biden at an October coronavirus briefing in Wilmington, Delaware, with participants including former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and New York University professor Celine Grounder, who will serve on his advisory board. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden declared tackling the pandemic "one of the most important battles our administration will face" as he announced a new 12-member Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board on Monday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has reported over 100,000 new coronavirus cases every day since last Wednesday, when it first reached the milestone. The seven-day average of deaths from the virus reported by states has risen 36% in the past three weeks, per the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: COVID-19 is one of four key issues Biden has pledged to tackle on day one of his administration. The others are economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.

  • The task force will be led by three co-chairs: former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith from Yale University — as Axios' Hans Nichols first reported Saturday.
  • Beth Cameron, who served as senior director for global health security and biodefense in the Obama administration, and Rebecca Katz, co-director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, are advisors to the Transition on COVID-19 and will work closely with the advisory board.

Zoom in: Biden said in an emailed statement he wanted to be "informed by science and by experts," and there's a wealth of experience on the advisory board, which comprises:

Rick Bright, a vaccine expert, who resigned last month from a top Department of Health and Human Services position after alleging he was demoted for political reasons.

Eric Goosby, an infectious diseases expert who previously served in the Obama and Clinton administrations.

Luciana Borio, whose previous positions include Food and Drug Administration acting chief scientist.

Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and adviser to Biden, who is vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and who previously served in the Obama administration.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Atul Gawande, a prominent doctor, health researcher and writer who served as a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration.

Loyce Pace, president and executive director of the Global Health Council.

Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Chicago commissioner of health.

Celine Gounder, a clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York University.

Robert Rodriguez, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine;

What they're saying: "The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations," Biden said.

  • The advisory board will help guide the Biden-Harris Transition in planning for the president-elect's federal response.
  • The advisers will "consult with state and local officials to determine the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control, to deliver immediate relief to working families, to address ongoing racial and ethnic disparities, and to reopen our schools and businesses safely and effectively," the Biden transition team said in a statement.

Of note: Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to reconvene a meeting on Monday afternoon with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which has not met for weeks as he and President Trump campaigned for re-election.

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