Biden, Harris unveil 13-member COVID-19 advisory board

Biden-Harris transition team
Courtesy of YouTube President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speak with the newly formed COVID-19 advisory board.

A week after winning a contentious and drawn-out election, on Monday, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris launched a 13-member coronavirus advisory board.

The goal of the board is “to make operational the Biden-Harris campaign plan to address COVID into a plan that the government can use,” Senior Adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN’s Sunday news show “State of the Union.”

On his transition website, President-elect Biden further explained, “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.”

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The panel will be led by Dr. David Kessler, professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University.

The panel will be composed of 13 members, including Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. 

A frequent guest on cable news shows, newly appointed Osterholm offered a blunt and bleak outlook on CNBC. “What America has to understand is that we are about to enter COVID hell.

“We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun,” he continued. “The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic.”

Osterholm told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he was impressed by the serious approach and tone of the Biden-Harris transition team. He also offered an “Amen!” when told Dr. Tony Fauci said he had no plans of leaving his post as director of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has served under six U.S. presidents.

Biden, at the press briefing with Vice President-elect Harris on Monday, also acknowledged that the nation is facing “a dark winter” as cases of COVID-19 cases continue to ratchet up in record numbers across the nation. To date, there are 10 million COVID-19 confirmed cases in America with over 230,000 dead.

Biden also implored Americans to wear a mask and called for non-partisan unity in fighting the spread of the virus.

A bit of relief may be on the horizon, however. Pfizer announced promising news on the COVID-19 vaccine front. The pharmaceutical giant stated early data suggests its vaccine is 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Signaling a further transition of power, President-elect Biden noted that Pfizer alerted him of the news last night: “Last night, my public health advisors were informed of this excellent news. I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope,” Biden said in a statement.

But he also cautioned, “At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”