President-elect Joe Biden’s task force to combat the growing coronavirus emergency will include a former Trump administration official who sounded the alarm over untested drugs promoted by the president as his aides ignored warnings and rewarded cronies while the nation’s case count surged.
Rick Bright, whose office was responsible for overseeing the development of a vaccine, alleged in a stunning whistleblower report – among the first high-profile revelations of the inner-workings of the administration’s response to the pandemic – that US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Alex Azar ”appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat” and linked government contracts to private companies under pressure from Jared Kushner, the president’s top adviser and son-in-law. HHS officials have disputed the allegations.
The president-elect’s task force also includes former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler, who served under both the Bill Clinton and George W Bush administrations, as well as Barack Obama’s former surgeon general Vivek Murphy.
Dr Zeke Emanuel, a former Obama adviser who helped design the Affordable Care Act, will also join the panel.
The president-elect and vice president-elect Kamala Harris are expected to receive a briefing from the coronavirus transition advisory team on Monday, followed by remarks from Mr Biden about his incoming administration’s plans to tackle the growing public health crisis.
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On Saturday, following declarations of his victory against Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race, Mr Biden said his transition advisers shaping his plan will “convert it into an action blueprint” to begin immediately upon entering office in January.
“That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern,” he said in remarks from Delaware. “I will spare no effort or commitment to turn this pandemic around.”
On Sunday, the nation’s confirmed infections spiked to more than 10 million, after more than one million cases were discovered within just 10 days.
Eight months into the pandemic, the US accounts for roughly one-fifth of all reported cases around the world. The seven-day average for new cases has surged to more than 110,000 daily infections, far exceeding the case rates in any other country.
More than 237,000 Americans have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Monday, the drug manufacturer Pfizer announced that its experimental coronavirus vaccine, among several in trial phases, is “90 per cent effective”.
The president-elect hailed the discovery but warned that Americans must continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines and wear masks to combat the spread of the disease.
"Today’s news is great news, but it doesn't change that fact," he said in a statement. "Today's announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same."
Mr Biden’s advisory team includes other leading health experts from Harvard Medical School, Yale University and the Council on Foreign Relations, among other agencies and institutions.
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