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The world now recognizes Joseph R. Biden as the President-Elect of the United States. Following a lackluster response from the incumbent in handling the pandemic, Biden has already started mobilizing on a national pandemic plan ahead of his official inauguration on January 20th, 2021. Here's what we know so far.
In a speech on Saturday, Biden announced he's now assembling a task force whose membership will be revealed tomorrow:
On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on Jan. 20, 2021.
According to the Biden campaign in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, the task force will be lead by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy and Dr. David Kessler.
The task force's plan for vaccines underscores the need for "effective, equitable distribution" according to official documents. The administration plans to invest $25B into vaccine production guaranteeing vaccination for "every American, cost-free." The administration also pledges the development of vaccines and treatments will pledge to keep "scientists in charge of all decisions on safety and efficacy."
Operation Warp Speed
The campaign did not speak specifics on the existing Operation Warp Speed (OWS) program in place under Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. OWS's goal is to produce "300 million doses of safe and effective [SARS-CoV-2] vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021" however it is possible the new administration will use existing resources if not the program's name. Several experts have warned the program may do more harm than good to the efficacy of a vaccine against COVID-19.
The fate of Dr. Anthony Fauci's position is more stable with the announcement of Biden's victory. The job of Fauci, the nation's top disease expert, has repeatedly been threatened by Trump. According to STAT News, a spokesperson from the Biden campaign stated, "[Biden] will reach out to Tony Fauci. He will declare his intent to be an active participant in the WHO and in the world. And I believe that in very short order, he’ll be in touch with governors and mayors around the country, listening to what it is that they’ll need to pivot this response."
Biden and Harris's plan includes the following seventeen improvements aimed at beating COVID-19 according to the official Biden-Harris transition website:
Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing
- Double the number of drive-through testing sites.
- Invest in next-generation testing, including at home tests and instant tests, so we can scale up our testing capacity by orders of magnitude.
- Stand up a Pandemic Testing Board like Roosevelt’s War Production Board. It’s how we produced tanks, planes, uniforms, and supplies in record time, and it’s how we will produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.
- Establish a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country with support from trusted local organizations in communities most at risk to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.
Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good
- Fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of masks, face shields, and other PPE so that the national supply of personal protective equipment exceeds demand and our stores and stockpiles — especially in hard-hit areas that serve disproportionately vulnerable populations — are fully replenished.
- Build immediately toward a future, flexible American-sourced and manufactured capability to ensure we are not dependent on other countries in a crisis.
Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.
- Social distancing is not a light switch. It is a dial. President-elect Biden will direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community, including when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces; when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe; appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings; when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.
- Establish a renewable fund for state and local governments to help prevent budget shortfalls, which may cause states to face steep cuts to teachers and first responders.
- Call on Congress to pass an emergency package to ensure schools have the additional resources they need to adapt effectively to COVID-19.
- Provide a “restart package” that helps small businesses cover the costs of operating safely, including things like plexiglass and PPE.
Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines — because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.
- Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.
- Ensure that politics plays no role in determining the safety and efficacy of any vaccine. The following 3 principles will guide the Biden-Harris administration: Put scientists in charge of all decisions on safety and efficacy; publicly release clinical data for any vaccine the FDA approves; and authorize career staff to write a written report for public review and permit them to appear before Congress and speak publicly uncensored.
- Ensure everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected — in America receives the protection and care they deserve, and consumers are not price gouged as new drugs and therapies come to market.
Protect older Americans and others at high risk.
- Establish a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force, as proposed by Vice President-elect Harris, to provide recommendations and oversight on disparities in the public health and economic response. At the end of this health crisis, it will transition to a permanent Infectious Disease Racial Disparities Task Force.
- Create the Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that Americans can check in real-time to help them gauge whether local transmission is actively occurring in their zip codes. This information is critical to helping all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take.
Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
- Immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, originally established by the Obama-Biden administration.
- Immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.
- Re-launch and strengthen U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program called PREDICT.
- Expand the number of CDC’s deployed disease detectives so we have eyes and ears on the ground, including rebuilding the office in Beijing.
Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.
- Every American to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household.
- Every Governor to make that mandatory in their state.
- Local authorities to also make it mandatory to buttress their state orders.