Coronavirus Roundup: Biden Outlines COVID Plan for First 100 Days; Trump Directs Agencies to Prioritize Giving Americans Vaccines
Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Upon being introduced as a member of President-elect Biden’s health team, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “we must lead with science” to fight the pandemic, noting that Biden believes this as well. “I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities and to working with this team of world-class experts whom I have known for many years and deeply respect,” Fauci said. “The road ahead will not be easy. We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year. But, as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together, as a nation.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
Biden said on Tuesday that during his first 100 days in office he will require mask-wearing where he is able, oversee administration of 100 million vaccine shots, and reopen the majority of schools if Congress provides the necessary funding to protect students and teachers. He devised this plan with Fauci, who will also serve as his chief medical adviser. Biden made these remarks during the event to introduce his “team of world-class experts” who “are ready on day one to spare no effort and get the pandemic under control, so we can get back to work, back to our lives, and back to our loved ones.”
At the same time as Biden’s event, President Trump was hailing his administration's vaccine and other coronavirus efforts at the “Operation Warp Speed” summit. “Rarely has there been a single hour on a single day that saw such discordant messages emanating from Washington in a time of national crisis,” Peter Baker wrote in The New York Times. “In the middle of a transition of power that has already proved more unsettling than any in more than a century, the departing and incoming presidents on Tuesday offered the American people vastly divergent assessments of the state of their union.”
When asked at the summit why the administration didn’t invite members of the Biden transition team, Trump said, “We're going to have to see who the next administration is.” He added, “Hopefully the next administration will be the Trump administration.”
Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser for the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that his officials would meet with the Biden transition team on Thursday. “We look forward to, you know, sharing all the information and working together,” he said.
Pfizer and Moderna, the drug manufacturers with two of the leading vaccine candidates, both declined invitations to attend the summit, Stat News reported. The event was two days before a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee meets to publicly examine data from Pfizer and nine days before there is a similar hearing for Moderna. Pfizer is not formally part of “Operation Warp Speed,” but signed a $1.95 billion contract with the Trump administration in July to supply 100 million doses if their vaccine is approved.
Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that directed the Health and Human Services and Defense departments as well as other relevant agencies to prioritize giving coronavirus vaccines to American citizens. “After all Americans have been afforded the opportunity to be vaccinated, the United States will facilitate COVID-19 vaccine access to the international community for our allies, partners, and others,” said National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien in a follow-up statement. “In the coming days, my team at the National Security Council will finalize this strategy and coordinate the United States Government’s subsequent implementation.”
Slaoui said, “I literally don’t know,” when asked on ABC (before it was signed on Tuesday) to clarify what the executive order would do. “Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this,” he said.
Biden said in an article in The Atlantic on Tuesday that vaccine distribution is one of the reasons he nominated Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to be Defense secretary. “The next secretary of defense will need to immediately quarterback an enormous logistics operation to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines widely and equitably,” he wrote. “Austin oversaw the largest logistical operation undertaken by the Army in six decades—the Iraq drawdown.”
Jenna Ellis, Trump’s campaign lawyer, tested positive for coronavirus after she attended a Christmas party at the White House on Friday, Axios reported on Tuesday. “It was unclear whether Ellis posed a risk when she attended,” said the report. “The revelation follows Sunday's news that Ellis' legal sidekick Rudy Giuliani was hospitalized after testing positive.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring states to submit personal information for individuals who received coronavirus vaccines, but some states are refusing due to concerns over privacy and potentially dissuading undocumented individuals from getting the shots, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. Administration officials said the information won’t be shared with other agencies and that the information is needed to ensure people who move states get their follow-up doses and monitor effectiveness and potential side effects.
The State Department inspector general said in a report published on Tuesday “one of the most significant challenges facing the department has been and will continue to be the global outbreak of COVID-19.” The report was about State’s top management challenges in fiscal 2020. “Although [the Office of the Inspector General] has not yet completed any work specific to the pandemic, we anticipate that much of OIG’s future work will focus on evaluating the impact of the pandemic on the department’s people, programs and operation,” it stated.
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