Health Officials Need Contact With Biden's Team,
Fauci Says

Carolyn Crist

November 16, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Government health officials need to begin working with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team as the coronavirus pandemic escalates across the country, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.

Biden's coronavirus advisory team is reaching out to medical professionals and state officials to prepare for a transition, but they haven't been given access to President Donald Trump's COVID-19 advisors, data or vaccine distribution plans.

"Of course it would be better if we could start working with them," Fauci said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday when asked whether working with Biden's team would help.

"I've been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years," Fauci said. "And it's very clear that the transition process that we go through…is really important in a smooth handing over of the information."

The presidential transition process hasn't yet begun and is likely to remain on hold until the election is certified by a Trump appointee in the General Services Administration, according to CNN. Fauci compared the transition process to passing a baton during a race.

"You don't want to stop and then give it to somebody," he said. "You want to just essentially keep going."

Trump last met with the White House Coronavirus Task Force several months ago, Fauci added. In fact, Trump last attended a meeting five months ago, Brett Giroir, a task force member and the coronavirus testing coordinator, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." Giroir added that Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, briefs Trump on the pandemic "every day or nearly every day." At the same time, Giroir said it's important to share information about the pandemic with Biden's team.

"I want to be as transparent as possible with everybody. This is not a political issue," he said. "This is an issue of public health and saving American lives."

Fauci also supported Biden's choice of Ron Klain as White House chief of staff and said they worked together on the Ebola crisis. Klain coordinated the Obama administration's response in 2014.

"I worked very closely with Ron Klain during the Ebola outbreak," Fauci said. "He was absolutely terrific at the Ebola situation, where we had a very successful ultimate endgame."

The coronavirus endgame relies on a smooth presidential transition and the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once one is approved in December. If enough Americans take the vaccine, the country could get back to "relative normal" by the summer next year, Fauci said Sunday.

Without major vaccine coordination or consistent messaging about the severity of the pandemic, however, the situation will grow worse. The U.S. surpassed 11 million COVID-19 cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb.

"We can't just wish it happening," Fauci said. "We have got to get the vaccine, it has got to be deployed, and we can't abandon fundamental public health measures."

Sources:

CNN, "State of the Union, transcript November 15, 2020."

CNN, "Fauci: ‘It would be better' if government health officials could start working with incoming Biden-Harris administration."

ABC News, "‘This Week' Transcript 11-15-20: Adm. Brett Giroir, Dr. Atul Gawande, John Bolton, Jeh Johnson, Jon Ossoff."

Johns Hopkins University, "COVID-19 Dashboard."

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