Biden advisers to meet vaccine firms as Trump stalls handoff

A bus stop ad for COVID-19 testing is shown outside Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
A bus stop ad for COVID-19 testing is shown outside Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The U.S. is adding about 1 million new cases a week, and deaths averaged 820 a day as of Saturday, a 33% increase in just two weeks.

Posted: Nov 15, 2020 6:00 PM

Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with vaccine makers in coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. That delayed handoff is especially problematic during a public health crisis, the government’s top infectious disease expert said.

“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been through multiple presidential transitions during 36 years of government service. 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.”

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. 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% increase in just two weeks.

“We’re going to start those consultations this week,” said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies.

Pfizer’s announcement that preliminary data indicate its vaccine is 90% effective lifted financial markets last week and gave people worldwide hope that an end to the pandemic will be coming.

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. In some ways, that’s the more critical issue, he said.

“We need to be talking to them as quickly as possible,” Klain 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.”

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. 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.

“Everyone is sensitive to what we call ‘COVID fatigue,’ “ Fauci said. “People are worn out about this. But we have got to hang in there a bit longer. ... We have got to hang together on this.”

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.

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.”

The risks are real. 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.

A leading adviser, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, sought to tamp down speculation that Biden as president would order a national lockdown, calling that a measure of last resort.

“In the spring, when we didn’t know a lot about COVID, we responded in a sense with an on/off switch,” Murthy said. “We shut things down because ... we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading.

“We learned a lot more since then,” he added. “The better way to think about these safety restrictions is more a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity, and that’s really the key here, is applying this, these restrictions judiciously and precisely.”

Fauci was on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Klain appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Giroir spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Murthy was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

___

Weissert reported from Wilmington, Delaware.

Huntsville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
Florence
Partly Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Fayetteville
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
Scottsboro
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 528784

Reported Deaths: 10913
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson762251516
Mobile40864804
Madison34569501
Tuscaloosa25646451
Montgomery24264585
Shelby23355246
Baldwin20993306
Lee15800168
Calhoun14457312
Morgan14250279
Etowah13796352
Marshall12166222
Houston10506280
Elmore10017205
Limestone9935150
Cullman9617193
St. Clair9584237
Lauderdale9397238
DeKalb8813185
Talladega8183175
Walker7205279
Autauga6910107
Jackson6793110
Blount6621135
Colbert6282134
Coffee5491115
Dale4810111
Russell437938
Chilton4244111
Franklin423882
Covington4105117
Tallapoosa4004150
Escambia392675
Chambers3545123
Dallas3536150
Clarke350360
Marion3092100
Pike309177
Lawrence299698
Winston273572
Bibb259763
Marengo248564
Geneva247075
Pickens233559
Barbour230256
Hale221776
Butler215469
Fayette211962
Henry188544
Cherokee183845
Randolph179241
Monroe176240
Washington166839
Macon158649
Clay153356
Crenshaw151657
Cleburne148341
Lamar141234
Lowndes138453
Wilcox126528
Bullock122941
Conecuh110028
Perry107526
Coosa106828
Sumter104132
Greene92234
Choctaw60324
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 849978

Reported Deaths: 12217
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby952081613
Davidson89184932
Knox50513634
Hamilton44114491
Rutherford42950433
Williamson27935217
Sumner23921348
Montgomery20138225
Wilson18742233
Out of TN1833397
Unassigned16961134
Sullivan16691290
Blount15441193
Bradley14983149
Washington14535244
Maury13450171
Sevier13341175
Putnam11342174
Madison11132241
Robertson9737131
Anderson8750172
Hamblen8597173
Greene7840155
Tipton7317101
Coffee6894121
Dickson6827110
Cumberland6704128
Carter6595156
Gibson6514145
Bedford6500128
McMinn648998
Roane6267105
Jefferson6177124
Loudon610369
Hawkins6005107
Lawrence590186
Monroe582095
Warren554181
Dyer5416105
Franklin513890
Fayette503576
Cheatham454155
Obion453396
Cocke448699
Lincoln434563
Rhea434075
Marshall417858
Campbell415163
Weakley410164
Giles3992100
Henderson378476
White362469
Macon361578
Carroll361283
Hardin356967
Hardeman351064
Henry317476
Lauderdale317444
Claiborne317273
Marion312247
Scott311445
Overton300661
Wayne295935
Hickman283546
McNairy281054
DeKalb279254
Smith277139
Haywood270562
Grainger261950
Trousdale249922
Morgan249139
Fentress240947
Johnson238839
Chester213851
Bledsoe213011
Polk206224
Crockett202848
Unicoi202249
Cannon191731
Union190434
Grundy178934
Humphreys178726
Lake170226
Sequatchie169429
Benton165740
Decatur158439
Lewis158126
Meigs138325
Stewart132228
Jackson131935
Clay110131
Houston109133
Perry106228
Moore101017
Van Buren84623
Pickett75924
Hancock58812

Community Events