Dr. Anthony Fautsi compares the transition of power to the relay when describing its significance.
Fauci, the country’s best infectious disease expert, has not spoken to Biden as the United States struggles with a significant jump in the coronavirus pandemic and the president-elect looks set to begin working on his plan to fight the virus.
“I was not formally told that anything was forbidden,” Fautsi told the USA Today editorial board, citing a lack of communication from Biden’s team, including Ron Klein, Biden’s newly appointed chief of staff. “But it’s quite obvious that this is a very sensitive period. I don’t want to get into this. I tried my best to stay away from the political aspects and just focus on my role as a public health doctor and scientist.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added: “To be honest with you, I believe that the people of Biden, including Ron Klein, understand this and do not want to put me in a compromised position.”
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Biden, who told the public to prepare for a “dark winter” with the spread of COVID-19, warned this week: “More people could die if we don’t agree.”
Fauci, who has served in six presidential administrations, is part of five transitions. But he has drawn regular criticism from Trump supporters and increasingly from the president himself, who horrified Fauzi as a “disaster” two weeks before the election.
“I can tell you that the transitions are really important and they are important because you don’t want to miss a step,” Fauci said.
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Fauci likened the smooth transition to a relay race, in which runners pass the baton as they continue to run, not from a place. “You all run together. And you pass the baton. It’s a smooth transition. It’s very, very similar to the relay.”
Following the 2016 election, Fauci said, outgoing President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Dennis McDonough, met with Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Raines Pribus, to begin pre-Trump discussions on how to respond to potential outbreaks. .
“Things like that make it easy to move from one to the other,” Fauci said. “So yes, I wish we could do it. That would be useful.”
A spokesman for Biden’s transition team did not immediately comment on the lack of communication with Fautsi when asked to respond to the doctor’s comments.
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Biden and his incoming team of advisers are looking for a signature from the General Services administrator, Trump-appointed Emily Murphy, who must establish the election results before the current administration can work with Biden’s team.
Because it failed, millions of dollars in federal funding and use of resources for the new administration were withheld. The GSA’s decision also blocked the new administration from using federal office space and gaining access to government agencies, which they will soon take over. Biden also did not receive a daily secret briefing on national security threats given to incoming presidents.
Biden’s team still worked to move forward. This includes a meeting of a 13-member coronavirus working group, co-chaired by David Kessler, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California and former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997; Vivek Murtie, a former U.S. surgeon general under Obama; and Marcella Nunes-Smith, associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University.
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Murty insisted on “cooperation and communication” from the Trump administration during a briefing with the media on Tuesday.
The information sought by Biden’s team, NBC News reports, includes: the total number of N95 masks, plastic gloves and syringes available nationwide; the availability of nurses to administer millions of doses of vaccines next year; terms of vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical companies; and access to existing databases for testing, vaccinations and protective equipment.
Biden called on all Americans to wear face masks amid growing positive cases of COVID-19 and said he would work with governors and local governments to implement the masks’ mandates.
Fauci expressed optimism about two vaccines that have shown promising test results. He said he believed the distribution of vaccine doses could begin by the end of December or January. But he said “COVID fatigue” and “denial” are a real problem in many countries.
“If we can and do implement public health measures, help is really on the way,” Fauci said.
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Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
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