Farewell, Scott Atlas and Mike Pence! Amateur hour is over.

President-Elect Joe Biden announced his coronavirus task force.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post reports:

WILMINGTON, Del. – In his first act as president-elect, Joe Biden announced Monday the 13 members of his transition team’s covid-19 advisory board.

Biden advisers say this speedy rollout is intended to signal that the incoming administration will elevate the voices of public health experts and scientists, who have found themselves marginalized and debased by President Trump as the coronavirus continues to course through the country. 

The United States will surpass 10 million confirmed infections today. The seven-day average for new cases is more than 100,000 per day for the first time. In five of the past seven days, covid-19 has killed more than 1,000 Americans.

People wait in their vehicles on Sunday at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Milwaukee. (Bing Guan/Reuters)People wait in their vehicles on Sunday at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Milwaukee. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

The new advisory group will brief Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris here later today, and Biden will deliver remarks on his plan to control the contagion. Vice President Pence will host a meeting at 3 p.m.of the White House coronavirus task force in the Situation Room. This is the first meeting Pence has convened since Oct. 20, despite the rapidly deteriorating situation.

 

Two members of the new panel worked inside the Trump administration: Luciana Borio was director for medical and biodefense preparedness on Trump’s National Security Council until she left last year before the pandemic. She is now vice president of the technical staff at In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency’s investment arm, and a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She previously served as assistant commissioner for counterterrorism policy and the acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration.

There’s also Rick Bright, an immunologist and vaccine researcher, who was ousted by Trump political appointees in April as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Bright, a civil servant who had led the agency since 2016, alleged in a whistleblower complaint and testified under oath before Congress that he was pushed aside after he strongly objected to Trump’s insistence that his agency support widespread access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two potentially dangerous drugs that the president spent weeks peddling in the spring as a potential cure for covid-19.

Bright was demoted to a lesser role at the National Institutes of Health, from which he resigned on Oct. 6 because he said that he was being given no work to do. “Public health and safety have been jeopardized by the administration’s hostility to the truth and by its politicization of the pandemic response, undoubtedly leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths,” Bright wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post the day after his resignation.

He has been warning that the Trump administration still has no coordinated national testing strategy and criticized the White House for expressing resistance to testing people who might have asymptomatic infections. “Federal agencies, staffed with some of the best scientists in the world, continue to be politicized, manipulated and ignored,” Bright wrote in the op-ed. “The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

Bright also previously served as an adviser to the World Health Organization. In July, the Trump administration began the process of formally withdrawing the United States from the U.N. agency. One of the first actions Biden plans to take after being inaugurated on Jan. 20 is to reverse that.

 

Trump’s political people at the top of Health and Human Services have claimed they got rid of Bright because he was confrontational and ineffective, but his whistleblower complaint included emails and other documentation that supported his allegations.

 

The spotlight is also back on the Trump White House’s handling of the coronavirus within its own walls. News leaked out late Friday that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and five other Trump aides in the West Wing – plus a senior campaign official – tested positive for the virus around Election Day. Meadows, who tested positive Wednesday but told others not to disclose his condition, said on Oct. 25 that Trump was pushing to reopen schools and send people back to work because “we’re not going to control the pandemic.”

Biden has attacked the Trump team for waving the white flag of surrender, and he promised during his victory speech on Saturday nightthat trying to get the pandemic under control will be his top priority as president.

“We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments — hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us — until we get this virus under control,” Biden said. “That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”

Who else is on the Biden task force:

The effort will be co-chaired by David Kessler, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who served as commissioner of the FDA from 1990 to 1997, under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Vivek Murthy, who as surgeon general during the final three years of Barack Obama’s administration commanded 6,600 public health officers during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, the associate dean for Health Equity Research at Yale medical school. Murthy and Kessler have been regularly advising Biden for months.

Zeke Emanuel, an oncologist, chairs the medical ethics department and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, where he’s also vice provost. During the first two years of the Obama administration, he was served a special adviser for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget. (His brother Rahm was White House chief of staff.) Emanuel has also chaired the bioethics department at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health since 1997.

Atul Gawande, a surgeonatBrigham and Women’s Hospital, teaches at Harvard’s medical school. The prolific author founded Ariadne Labs, a health systems innovation center between the hospital where he practices and Harvard’s School of Public Health. He was a senior advisor in HHS during the Clinton administration. 

Celine Gounder cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center and teaches at New York University’s medical school. While on the faculty at Johns Hopkins, she directed delivery efforts for the Gates Foundation-funded Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS/TB Epidemic. 

Julie Morita, who served as the city of Chicago’s health commissioner for two decades, is executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, sat on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Community Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States. 

Michael Osterholm directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, where he chairs the Department of Public Health. He was previously a science envoy for health security on behalf of the State Department and worked for 24 years in the Minnesota Department of Health, including 15 years as the state’s epidemiologist.

Loyce Pace is executive director and president of the Global Health Council. She has worked with Physicians for Human Rights and Catholic Relief Services, and she previously held leadership positions at the Livestrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

Robert Rodriguez is a professor of emergency medicine at UCSF medical school, where he practices in the emergency department and intensive care unit of two major trauma centers in the Bay Area. The Harvard medical school graduate has authored papers on the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of frontline providers. In July, he volunteered to help with a critical surge of coronavirus patients in the ICU in his hometown of Brownsville, Tex. 

Eric Goosby, also a professor at UCSF medical school, was the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator during the Obama administration. Later, he was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General as a special envoy for TB.During the Clinton administration, he was founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act, the largest federally funded HIV-AIDS program, and the interim Director of the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy. 

Rebecca Katz, the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Beth Cameron, director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council during the Obama administration, are serving as advisers to the transition task force.

Joe Biden receives a virtual coronavirus briefing on Oct. 28 at the Queen in Wilmington, Del. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)Joe Biden receives a virtual coronavirus briefing on Oct. 28 at the Queen in Wilmington, Del. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

This new advisory group offers a stark contrast with Trump, who suggested last week during one of his final rallies before Election Day that he plans to fire Anthony Fauci, the top expert on infectious diseases in the government since 1984, after the election. Fauci and others have clashed with Scott Atlas, a radiologist at a conservative think tank who does not have a background in public health but who has had Trump’s ear since advocating for a more relaxed approach to the virus during appearances on Fox News.