Joe Biden plans to name his own task force to deal with the coronavirus pandemic before he takes office as he tries to get a grip on spiralling case numbers that are numbering more than 100,000 a day in the US.
The president-elect will on Monday announce a 12-member team to tackle the virus even before announcing any of his cabinet, according to media reports, following confirmation on Saturday of his triumph in the election.
The move underlines Mr Biden’s pledge to make dealing with coronavirus his top priority, and stands in contrast with outgoing President Donald Trump, who has stopped meeting his own coronavirus task force, according to senior officials.
On Friday, the US reported more than 125,000 coronavirus cases, the third daily record in a row, with nearly every state reporting rising trends in infections and hospitalisations.
Mr Biden will name three co-chairs of the panel, according to Axios: Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general; David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate professor of medicine at Yale University.
During the campaign, Mr Biden accused Mr Trump of being responsible for the deaths of many of the Americans who have succumbed to Covid-19, a toll that stands at 225,000, saying he had failed to follow advice from his own administration’s scientists on how to deal with the virus.
The number of cases has spiked across the US in recent weeks as a third wave takes hold in most states. The latest figures from the Covid Tracking Project show there have been over 9.6m cases since the pandemic began, and more than 220,000 deaths.
Speaking on Friday night before he was declared the next president, Mr Biden said he would act immediately to slow the spread of the disease. “We want everyone to know on day one we are going to put our plan to control this virus into action,” he said.
“We can’t save any of the lives that have been lost, but we can save a lot of lives in the months ahead.”
The president-elect has already said that if elected he would mandate mask-wearing on all federal property. But he will face a host of difficult decisions on entering office, including how to distribute any vaccine that is authorised.
Last month Zeke Emanuel, professor of healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania, told Politico Mr Biden will set up groups of officials to work on testing, vaccine distribution, therapeutics, guidance for schools to open, and co-ordination with states.
Mr Emanuel, who will reportedly be a member of Mr Biden’s task force, added that the president-elect will try to revive flagging morale at many of America’s top public health agencies, which have been attacked regularly by Mr Trump.
The outgoing president has appointed Scott Atlas, who is not an infectious disease expert, as his own personal coronavirus adviser in an attempt to circumvent officials such as Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.