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President-elect Joe Biden announces COVID-19 Advisory Board

Members of the advisory board include Dr. Atul Gawande, former CEO and now chairman of Haven.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Joe Biden has formed a COVID-19 Advisory Board. (Getty Editorial Photo by Sean Rayford) Joe Biden has formed a COVID-19 Advisory Board. (Getty Editorial Photo by Sean Rayford)

President-elect Joe Biden announced the formation of a COVID-19 Advisory Board on Monday, two days after being declared the projected winner of the presidential election.

The team of public health experts, doctors and scientists will advise Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the transition team's COVID-19 staff, according to the new Biden-Harris transition website.

The Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board will be led by cochairs Dr. David Kessler, Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. 

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Dr. Beth Cameron and Dr. Rebecca Katz are serving as advisors to the transition on COVID-19 and will work closely with the advisory board.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The United States is on the verge of hitting 10 million coronavirus cases and 240,000 deaths.

The members of the advisory board will consult with state and local officials to determine the public health and economic steps necessary to get the virus under control, to deliver immediate relief to working families, to address ongoing racial and ethnic disparities and to reopen schools and businesses safely and effectively, the transition website said.

Biden is pushing for more to be done at the federal level, in comparison to the Trump Administration, which has left much of the decision-making to the states and has played down social distancing and mask wearing to put more focus on reopening the economy.

Joe Biden compared his pandemic plan to President Franklin Roosevelt's response to World War II. Biden said he would stand up a Pandemic Testing Board like Roosevelt's War Production Board. 

The president-elect is likely to announce a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director to rapidly succeed current director Robert Redfield, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing as its source, Ezekiel Emanuel, a member of the new transition COVID-19 advisory board.

SPECIFICS

Biden's plan to beat COVID-19, according to the website, include:

  • ensuring all Americans have access to regular, reliable and free testing. 
  • doubling the number of drive-through testing sites.
  • investing in next-generation testing, including at home tests and instant tests.
  • establishing a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.
  • fixing personal protective equipment problems.

He would fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of masks, face shields, and other PPE, and build toward a future, flexible, American-sourced and manufactured capability.

He would direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for:

  • how and when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants and other spaces.
  • when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe.
  • give appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings.
  • when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.

He would establish a renewable fund for state and local governments to help prevent budget shortfalls, which may cause states to face steep cuts to teachers and first responders.

He would call on Congress to pass an emergency package to ensure schools have the additional resources they need to adapt effectively to COVID-19. He also would provide a "restart package" to help small businesses cover the costs of operating safely, including for such things as Plexiglas and PPE.

THE LARGER TREND

While Biden is setting the groundwork for his administration's efforts, he has to wait two months until the January 20 inauguration to implement changes. 

President Donald Trump has challenged the outcome of the presidential race, with recounts and potential lawsuits expected.

COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD

Members of the advisory board have served in previous administrations.

Dr. David Kessler is professor of pediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. He served as Food and Drug Administration Commissioner from 1990 to 1997, appointed by President George H.W. Bush and reappointed by President Bill Clinton.

Dr. Vivek Murthy served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014-2017.  As the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he commanded a uniformed service of 6,600 public health officers globally who were focused on helping underserved populations, protecting the nation from Ebola and Zika, and responding to the Flint water crisis, and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Nunez-Smith's research focuses on promoting health and healthcare equity for structurally marginalized populations.

Members of the advisory board include: 

Dr. Luciana Borio, who has served in senior leadership positions at the FDA and National Security Council.

Dr. Rick Bright, an American immunologist, virologist and former public health official.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist who, from January 2009 to January 2011, served as special advisor for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Dr. Atul Gawande, the Cyndy and John Fish Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs, a joint center between Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for health systems innovation and a former senior advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration. In 2018, Gawande was appointed CEO of Haven, a nonprofit healthcare venture launched by the founders of Amazon, JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Berkshire Hathaway. He stepped down in May and is now chairman of the company.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, who cares for patients at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Morita previously served as the Health Commissioner for the City of Chicago and has served on the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

Ms. Loyce Pace, the executive director and president of Global Health Council. 

Dr. Robert Rodriguez, who graduated from Harvard Medical School and currently serves as a professor of emergency medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine, where he works on the front line in the emergency department and ICU of two major trauma centers. In July 2020, Dr. Rodriguez volunteered to help with a critical surge of COVID-19 patients in the ICU in his hometown of Brownsville, Texas. 

Dr. Eric Goosby, an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. During the Clinton Administration, Dr. Goosby was the founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act, the federally funded HIV/AIDS program. He went on to become the interim director of the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy. 

ON THE RECORD

"Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," said President-elect Biden. "The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com