- On the day that President-elect Joe Biden delivered his first victory speech since winning the November 3 election, defeating Donald Trump in his bid for re-election, the latest coronavirus update for the US serves as a sobering reminder of how ominous a moment this still is for the country.
- The US keeps setting records for new coronavirus cases, with 126,400 just reported for a single day. And experts warn the winter period between now and the end of the year is set to continue this trend.
- On Monday, Biden has said he’ll announce a 12-person coronavirus task force.
Saturday, November 7, was a day of remarkable contradiction across America. Thousands of Americans celebrated the race for the White House being called, after days of vote-counting, for former Vice President Joe Biden, even as President Trump spent the day making vague promises of contesting that outcome. Capping the day were the first speeches from Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice President-elect, respectively, delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, an event that was finished off with a fireworks and drone display.
For anyone inclined to celebrate this outcome — which, as we noted earlier today, was remarkable in that Biden garnered the most votes of any American president in history — this is an odd day for a celebration of any kind. You can probably guess where we’re going next. The latest coronavirus update for the US is — well, it’s staggeringly bad. The US has just reported a record of 126,400 new coronavirus cases, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Moreover, over the past seven days the US has recorded an average of more than 98,500 new cases as of Friday. That’s up more than 25% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins. It is quite an understatement to acknowledge that President Biden will inherit a monumental series of challenges come January of 2021.
On Monday, Biden is set to announce a 12-person coronavirus task force, which will be headed up by three co-chairs. They include former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, former FDA commissioner David Kessler and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of Yale University, with the remaining names to come on Monday.
Looking even farther ahead, we can also make some educated guesses about what the Biden administration’s overall coronavirus strategy might look like. Some of the work, to be sure, is already under way. Vaccines, for example, could start coming online as soon as January.
Meanwhile, a former Obama administration official — Andy Slavitt, who was the Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, appointed by Biden’s old boss — has some ideas about what Biden should do next. In an interview with Fast Company, Slavitt said that if he were Biden, here’s what he’d get started on from Day One:
#1: Putting the Defense Production Act to work for you. While experts don’t think Biden has the constitutional power to enact some kind of national quarantine, he can use a tool like this act, which allows the president to require American companies to produce necessary supplies when needed. Trump never really utilized it, and Slavitt thinks it would do wonders for Biden to use it to build up a supply of PPE, gloves, masks, gowns, testing equipment, and more. “There are all kinds of technologies, like (a COVID) breathalyzer, that could make entrance to school safe,” Slavitt told FastCo. “But they require significant production challenges. The technology is good, but you have to find the production capacity to develop those things.”
#2: Do whatever it takes to get Congress to pass a huge coronavirus relief accord. In April of this year, Slavitt and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for a $46 billion COVID-19 plan, with $30 billion of that amount meant for financial assistance for Americans, and $12 billion to hire a 180,000-person contact-tracing team. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have spent months gridlocked over a new coronavirus stimulus bill. “If you’re Biden, you spend some political capital to work with (Mitch) McConnell to get that done,” Slavitt said.
#3: Make messaging directly to the American people a core part of the president’s strategy. Not through bombastic tweets. Not on task force press conference days. But an FDR fireside chat-style leveling with the country about where we are, what needs to happen next, and a constantly updated clear plan of how to put the pandemic behind us.
During his victory speech Saturday night, Biden acknowledge that “our work begins with getting COVID under control” and the he would “marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, the forces of science, the forces of hope” in the service of that task.