Biden Warns 'More People May Die' if Trump Refuses to Coordinate on Coronavirus
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday called for greater cooperation from the Trump White House in the effort to plan the distribution of vaccines for Covid-19 in the coming weeks and months.
“They say they have this Warp Speed program that not only dealt with getting vaccines but also how to distribute this,” Biden said at a press event, referring to the Trump administration’s coronavirus treatment and vaccine program. “If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month, month and a half. So it's important there be coordination now, now or as rapidly as we can get that done.”
“More people may die if we don't coordinate," Biden warned.
Biden has announced the formation of his own coronavirus advisory board that is expected to work with Trump administration health officials as it devises plans for the incoming president to deal with the pandemic. But Biden transition officials have been unable to coordinate with the White House’s Covid-19 task force as Trump continues to deny the election results and the General Services Administration refuses to sign-off on the initiation of the formal transition process.
Fauci expresses concern: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert who also serves on the current White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Monday that the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration could impair the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The comments from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases came after news that a second vaccine candidate showed enormous promise in early testing (see below). But Fauci expressed concerns that the lack of cooperation from the Trump White House could hamper the rapid progress, making it harder to “pass the baton” to the Biden team without slowing stride.
“The virus is not going to stop and call a time out while things change. The virus is just going to keep going. The process is just going to keep going,” Fauci said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
Asked if he was worried about the lack of cooperation from the Trump team so far, Fauci said, “Obviously, it's something that we're concerned about. I mean, as you know, I've served in six administrations, so I've seen a number of transitions and I know that transitions are very important. Hopefully, we'll see that soon.”
Trump largely absent: President Trump has not attended meetings of his coronavirus task force for months, and he has reportedly stopped being involved in the management of the federal response to the crisis, even as he ignores or criticizes his own officials for their efforts to encourage social distancing and mask wearing. Critics charge that the president is failing to perform one of his most basic duties.
“The duty of a president is to protect the national security of the United States, and this is the most prominent disease of mass destruction America’s ever faced, and we have a commander in chief who has run away from the problem and has made it worse,” Jack Chow, a U.S. ambassador for global HIV/AIDS during the George W. Bush administration, told The Washington Post. “We had an opportunity twice over the past eight months to bring it down to safer levels, and we failed. We are on the verge of losing control of this pandemic.”
While Trump officials deny the charge — “President Trump and his entire administration remain intensely focused on defeating this virus and saving lives as Operation Warp Speed continues to fast track lifesaving treatments and vaccines in record time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews said — at least one former administration official is more critical.
“The numbers are going to get very big in terms of hospitalizations and deaths,” said Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former FDA commissioner. “We are just going to have a lot of death and disease.”
Biden Calls on Congress to Quickly Pass Large Stimulus
Biden also called for Congress to quickly pass a major coronavirus-relief bill along the lines of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the Democratic-led House in May — and he emphasized the need to provide more help to state and local governments facing a budget crunch as a result of the pandemic. That aid has been a major sticking point in negotiations on another stimulus package, with Trump and other Republicans objecting to what they describe as bailing out badly run Democratic states.
“We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. That requires sparing no effort to fight Covid,” Biden said. “There’s a reason why the federal government is able to run a deficit, because the states must, must balance their budgets, and they’re in real trouble. You’re going to see hundreds of thousands of police officers, firefighters, first responders, mental health clinics – you’re going to see them going out of business. Right now, Congress should come together and pass a Covid-relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago. Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before.”
Biden’s newly appointed chief of staff, Ron Klain, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the president-elect wants a relief package during the lame-duck session of Congress that begins this week. “We need action during the lame-duck. There are a lot of things that are going to have to wait until Joe Biden is president,” Klain said. “This is not one of them.”
Trump calls for ‘big and focused’ stimulus: President Trump on Saturday called on Congress to pass another stimulus bill, but whereas before the election he had urged lawmakers to “go big” on a relief deal — at times suggesting that he would support a package larger than the $2-plus trillion Democrats wanted — his weekend tweet seemed to combine Democrats’ calls for a big bill with the GOP’s desire for more “targeted” relief.
"Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!"
Biden on Monday criticized Trump for not doing more about the crisis. “The idea that the president is still playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension. You’d at least think he’d want to go off on a positive note." The president-elect also called on Republicans senators who might object to any additional coronavirus relief package to “stand up and save lives and jobs now.”
What it all means: Republicans and Democrats are still sharply divided over a relief package, and lawmakers are also dealing with a December 11 deadline to pass another bill to fund the government and avert a shutdown. Biden’s call for a major stimulus aren’t likely to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or other GOP members to suddenly drop their objections to spending another $2 trillion or more on an aid bill.
“The mostly likely outcome is another stopgap spending bill, perhaps into late February or early March, with some limited bipartisan COVID-19 aid attached. That’s the view of Capitol Hill officials in both parties and other legislative experts,” Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak reported Monday morning, before Biden’s speech.
Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Nearly 95% Effective, Early Data Show
Biotech company Moderna announced Monday that its experimental coronavirus vaccine was 94.5% effective, according to preliminary trial data. It’s the second announcement of a promising vaccine candidate this month, after Pfizer said last week that its own vaccine was more than 90% effective in trials. Both vaccines use mRNA, meaning that they use a string of genetic code rather than the coronavirus itself to prompt an immune response.
The studies are continuing and it’s not clear yet how long any vaccine protection may last, but the results raised hopes that multiple vaccines will be available on a limited basis before the end of the year and more widely available by April, helping to meet U.S. and global demand. The news also raised hopes that the pandemic, which has now seen more than 11 million cases in the United States, could be brought under control next year.
“Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading in 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had Covid, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021,” former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.
Moderna was part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program. It received nearly $1 billion from the U.S. government to support its Covid vaccine research.
What’s next: As Politico’s Zachary Brennan and Sarah Owermohle write, “Governments and vaccine developers are still figuring out how to distribute limited early stocks of the shots, whether they can pump up production to meet intense global demand, and — at least in the United States — how to overcome a rising tide of vaccine hesitancy.”
- Can Mitch McConnell Do the Right Thing Just Once? – E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post
- Trump Fights to Keep a Job He Shows No Interest in Performing – Max Boot, Washington Post
- As a Third Covid-19 Wave Rises, Trump Dawdles and Republicans Hide – James Downie, Washington Post
- Trump’s Tantrum Could Do Real Harm – Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg
- What Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Results Mean for Ending the Pandemic – Umair Irfan, Vox
- Where Biden Can Find $1 Trillion – Natasha Sarin, Bloomberg
- It’s Been a Year Since Covid-19 Emerged. The World Still Isn’t Ready for It. – David Von Drehle, Washington Post
- ‘Personal Responsibility’ Isn’t Working. We Need Mask Mandates. – Washington Post Editorial Board
- The Pandemic Doesn’t Care About Your Personal Freedom – Kathleen Parker, Washington Post
- What’s Missing From Joe Biden’s Covid-19 Advisory Board – Leana S. Wen, Washington Post
- Why Democrats Nearly Lost the House – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
- Biden Will Also Have the Opioid Epidemic to Deal With Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic – Alexandra Ellerbeck, Washington Post
- Red States’ Case Against ACA Hinges on Whether They Were Actually Harmed by the Law – Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News