The Biden Administration’s Job One

Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris! Biden has already announced Job One.

The numbers of sick and dead from Covid-19 are shooting up the steep part of the exponential curve, where they become hard to control. Most of the country is seeing uncontrolled spread of the virus – that means that people don’t know how they contracted it. The numbers set records every day now.

Biden has already announced that he will name, on Monday, a 12-member COVID task force.

The task force will be led by three co-chairs: former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith from Yale University.

I have no doubt that the three will be available to the press immediately, and that they will have strong messages about how to deal with the pandemic. The first message will be that we are not talking politics, we are talking about a barely living organism that has no respect for status or ideology. Its mathematics are stark, but not inexorable if we meet it with our intelligence. To begin, mask up, distance from other people, and wash your hands.

Biden will engage.

“There are some things he’s going to do right off the bat,” said Nicole Lurie, a Biden campaign adviser who served as the Obama administration’s top pandemic-preparedness official. “He will reach out to Tony Fauci. He will declare his intent to be an active participant in the WHO and in the world. And I believe that in very short order, he’ll be in touch with governors and mayors around the country, listening to what it is that they’ll need to pivot this response.”

There’s a tradition for the President-Elect to avoid competing with the President, but there is no competition here, because, even as more White House staff are infected with the virus, Trump continues to do nothing. And the virus continues its mindless multiplication.

The response must be immediate. The incubation period of the virus means that people infected today will show symptoms a week or two later; the path of the disease to death is another week or two. Some people will not die but will be disabled, perhaps permanently.

What Biden and the task force can do is less than will be possible after he is inaugurated on January 20; for example, only then can he invoke the Defense Production Act to make protective equipment and medications more available. Congressional action will be needed, too, so that schools can be made more safe and people will not have to risk their livelihood to keep safe.

We must start now. Mask up, distance from other people, and wash your hands.

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