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'Wearing a mask is not a political statement': Joe Biden's new Covid-19 task force meets

The US still has the highest coronavirus cases numbers in the world.

Updated Nov 9th 2020, 5:50 PM

biden Biden and Kamala Harris are seen on a monitor screen as they listen during a meeting with his Covid-19 advisory council, Source: Carolyn Kaster/PA Images

US PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden has announced a coronavirus task force as he begins preparations to enter the White House. 

Biden promised to be lead by the transition team of 13 experts as the US continues to see a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking today, Biden urged Americans to wear masks, stressing it is “not a political statement” but the most important step they can take to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“I implore you, wear a mask…. A mask is not a political statement but it is a good way to start pulling the country together,” Biden said in Wilmington after holding a virtual briefing with his Covid-19 advisory council.

Biden, who himself has routinely worn face coverings while campaigning and out in public, said that even as good news of a successful coronavirus vaccine trial has emerged, “the single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask.”

The US has had more than 9.8 million cases and more than 237,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic started, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The country reported more than 126,000 positive cases and more than 1,000 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, according to the university. It marked the fourth day in a row that new cases topped more than 100,000, as the country continued to break its own record for daily cases on nearly every day last week.

On the campaign trail, Biden promised to “take the muzzle off our experts” and put a national strategy in place to “get ahead” of the virus and end the pandemic crisis. 

The Covid-19 advisory board announced today will help guide the Biden-Harris Transition team in planning for the President-elect’s robust federal response.

He previously touted a nationwide mask mandate and a plan that allows for free and widespread Covid-19 testing, boosting of US medical equipment manufacturing and making any future vaccine “free to everyone, whether or not you’re insured”. 

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden in a statement today. 

“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.”

The president-elect is expected to make his first public remarks since his victory speech on Saturday night later on this evening. 

The announcement of his new group came as US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech announced that a jointly developed vaccine had so far proven 90 percent effective in preventing infections in trials.

Biden welcomed this, while cautioning it would be “many more months” before mass vaccination was possible and urging Americans to wear masks – something he says he wants to mandate nationally once in office.

biden Source: Carolyn Kaster

He previously appointed a former surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of his coronavirus working group. 

Additional members of the advisory board announced today have served in previous administrations and have experience “engaging with and leading our country’s response to nationwide and worldwide public health crises”.

Of note is Rick Bright who was ousted from the Trump administration due to political pressure, after he expressed opposition to the Trump administration’s promotion of unproven drug therapies to fight Covid-19

Bright told congress back in May that Trump’s administration has no “master plan” to fight the coronavirus pandemic and is unprepared to distribute enough vaccines to immunize millions of Americans.

He also spoke out about what he called the government’s failure to ramp up stockpiles of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, for health workers. 

Source: 60 Minutes/YouTube

Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are due to receive a briefing from the transition coronavirus advisory board this afternoon, followed by a press conference. 

Here’s a look at the co-chairs and advisory board members:

Co-Chairs

  • Dr David Kessler

Kessler was the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner from 1990 to 1997, appointed by President George HW Bush and reappointed by President Bill Clinton.

  • Dr Vivek Murthy

Murthy was the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014-2017, and Vice-Admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. 

  • Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith

Nunez-Smith is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University and the Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at the Yale School of Medicine. 

Members

  • Dr Luciana Borio

Luciana Borio specialises in biodefense, emerging infectious diseases, medical product development, and complex public health emergencies. 

  • Dr Rick Bright

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Bright is an immunologist, virologist, and former public health official. He was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) from 2016 to 2020. He resigned last month from after alleging he was demoted for political reasons.

  • Dr Ezekiel Emanuel

Emanuel is an oncologist and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. 

  • Dr Atul Gawande

Gawande previously served as a senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration.

  • Dr Celine Gounder

Gounder is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center. 

  • Dr Julie Morita

Morita was the Health Commissioner for the City of Chicago for nearly two decades. 

  • Dr Michael Osterholm

Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. 

  • Loyce Pace

Pace is the Executive Director and President of Global Health Council. 

  • Dr Robert Rodriguez 

Rodriguez is a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. 

  • Dr Eric Goosby

Goosby is an expert on infectious diseases and Professor of Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. 

About the author:

Adam Daly

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