Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with COVID-19 vaccine makers in the coming days despite the presidential transition remaining stalled because of Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election.
‘We´re going to start those consultations this week,’ said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer, which said Monday its experimental vaccine is 90 per cent effective, and other pharmaceutical companies. Klain on Sunday also urged Congress to pass bipartisan COVID-19 financial relief.
The president-elect’s outreach to the vaccine manufacturers comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has entered perhaps its most dangerous phase. As of Sunday more than 10.9 million Americans had tested positive for the virus; 245,942 have died.
Klain said Biden’s experts also need a detailed understanding of distribution plans being finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon. ‘We need to be talking to them as quickly as possible,’ he said.
‘It’s great to have a vaccine, but vaccines don’t save lives: vaccinations save lives. And that means you’ve got to get that vaccine into people’s arms all over this country. It’s a giant logistical project,’ Klain added.
For the first time since Election Day, Trump acknowledged that Biden had won. ‘He won because the Election was Rigged,’ Trump tweeted in reference to his Democratic rival Sunday morning.
But Klain said Biden’s team is still awaiting federal government authorization to formally begin transition efforts between his pandemic advisers and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Joe Biden’s, right, scientific advisers will meet with vaccine makers in coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled because of Donald Trump’s, left, refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. The two men are pictured Sunday
‘We´re going to start those consultations this week,’ said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer, which said Monday its experimental vaccine is 90 per cent effective, and other pharmaceutical companies. Klain, pictured, on Sunday also urged Congress to pass bipartisan COVID-19 financial relief
The incoming team has been hampered by the federal government’s refusal to sign-off on transition efforts, which affect coronavirus coordination, national security and other urgent issues, he said.
Biden’s coronavirus advisor, Dr Michael Osterholm, told Meet the Press on Sunday that the US is in a ‘very dangerous period’ and that the health care system is on a ‘tipping point’.
Osterholm then predicted that health care systems across the US could collapse in just ‘a few more weeks’ if COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
A new model has suggested that up to 150,000 more people could die before the president-elect’s January inauguration.
Biden has pledged to make controlling the coronavirus a top priority and is likely to push for mask wearing mandates and more fiscal stimulus to keep businesses and workers afloat when he assumes office next year.
But in the two months until inauguration day on January 20, skyrocketing infections could add up to 13 million more cases and 150,000 deaths, representing a potential 80 per cent increase in infections and a 29 per cent rise in deaths, according to Reuters calculations.
According to Reuters, the US could report between 8 million and 13 million more cases of COVID-19 between now and the inauguration.
The calculations, which were based on early November daily case count and percentage growth trends, also show that at the current daily rate of deaths, another 70,000 to 150,000 Americans may die between now and Inauguration Day.
The delayed handoff is especially problematic during a public health crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said.
He likened the process to runners passing on the baton in a relay race. ‘You don´t want to stop and then give it to somebody,’ he said. ‘You want to just essentially keep going.’
Biden has pledged to make controlling the coronavirus a top priority and is likely to push for mask wearing mandates and more fiscal stimulus to keep businesses and workers afloat when he assumes office next year. Biden departs after mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Sunday
For the first time since Election Day, Trump acknowledged that Biden had won. ‘He won because the Election was Rigged,’ Trump tweeted in reference to his Democratic rival Sunday morning. Trump plays golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia Sunday
The seven-day rolling average for new daily cases stood at 145,400 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
That means the U.S. is adding about 1 million new cases a week, and deaths averaged 820 a day as of Saturday, a 33 per cent increase in just two weeks.
Pfizer’s announcement that preliminary data indicate its vaccine is 90 per cent effective lifted financial markets last week and gave people worldwide hope that an end to the pandemic will be coming.
But Dr Fauci stressed the arrival of vaccines won’t be like flipping a switch to return to normal life. The first doses will become available for people in high-risk groups later this year.
Other vaccine makers are also in the final phase of testing their formulations, and Fauci said he expects those vaccines will also be highly effective. He said Americans will have to keep up preventive measures such as wearing masks, observing social distancing and frequently washing their hands well into next year.
Pfizer’s announcement that preliminary data indicate its vaccine is 90 per cent effective lifted financial markets last week and gave people worldwide hope that an end to the pandemic will be coming
The government has launched a program called ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ backed by the White House, to quickly manufacture and distribute tens of millions of doses of vaccines.
The shots will be free to Americans, and the goal is to have most people vaccinated by about this time next year. Many people will need two doses. Initial access to the vaccine will be limited to high-priority groups such as hospital and nursing home workers.
A top Trump administration health official said 20 million doses could be available by the end of this month, and an additional 20 million by the end of the year.
But Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant HHS secretary, seconded Fauci’s admonition that Americans must keep following basic public health precautions such as wearing masks.
‘If we do these things combined with the testing that we have, we can flatten the curve,’ he said. ‘If we do not do these things, the cases will continue to go up.’ Giroir said the country is in a critical situation.
Pressed on whether the administration should be talking to the Biden team, Giroir responded: ‘Look, I want to be as transparent as possible with everybody. This is not a political issue. This is an issue of public health and saving American lives. And I think there´s nothing more important than that.’
Around the country, hospitals report that doctors and nurses are being stretched to cope with rising numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring special care. In some communities, hospitals have started limiting elective procedures in order to conserve resources.
On Saturday, Trump spent most of the day golfing and when he did address the virus on Twitter, he wrote: ‘Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!’
The lack of communication about what is being done to continue to combat the virus is worrying and is likely what prompted Biden’s team to call for an urgent response between now and when he assumes his presidential role.
On Friday, Biden said: ‘This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year.
‘The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now… Right now is a moment for shared responsibility and shared action. Together, we have the power to rein in this virus,’ Biden said.
‘And I promise you, from the moment I am sworn in on January 20, I will do everything in my power to lead this unified national effort,’ Biden added.
A White House spokesman said the president’s task force remains ‘focused on saving lives,’ and is ‘in constant contact with state and local jurisdictions and health care providers, and continues to promote common sense mitigation measures’.