President Donald Trump’s refusal to give in to the fact that Joe Biden won the election is likely to prolong the pandemic and put the lives of Americans at risk, several current senior officials working on the federal government’s response to the crisis told The Daily Beast. coronavirus.
Days after the election results became clear, Trump ordered his administration to block standard transition work intended to upgrade the new president’s team. He did it, say his aides, because he is still fighting legal battles across the country and refuses to admit he lost. But the tangible impact could be huge.
Trump administration officials working on the COVID vaccination process, particularly those working on Operation Warp Speed, were unable to contact Biden’s new COVID-19 task force on plans already in place for distribution. Without close coordination on these matters, current officials say, Biden’s team could face significant delays in distributing the vaccine to the American people.
“Planning for vaccine distribution takes time,” said a senior health official. “And Operation Warp Speed has built up a huge database that guides their decisions on how best to deploy the vaccine. It is essential that Biden’s camp has access to this information so that when a vaccine becomes available, it can be quickly released to the public.
According to two other senior officials, the governors have been working for weeks with Operation Warp Speed - a public-private partnership to speed up vaccine development – on drafting statewide distribution plans. As part of these plans, governors try to decide how much funding they should use to create as effective distribution plans as possible. Every plan is different, officials said, especially when it comes to states’ ability to purchase and administer vaccines. And all of these plans are always in sync so as not to disrupt the federal government vaccine distribution plans for the military and frontline health workers, officials said.
With officials are still trying to finalize a coherent and streamlined operation to determine who gets the vaccine first and when, there is a great need for outgoing and incoming administrations to be on the same page. Instead, they don’t even speak.
“I don’t think the president-elect can do anything to get the current president to cooperate, ”said Kathleen Sebelius, former director of the Department of Health and Human Services. “But the governors have all submitted a plan to this White House for their vaccination strategy. What these shots say, how similar they are, is still not at all transparent. Hopefully these plans will be submitted to the Biden team, so that there can be a strategy on who should be vaccinated first and in what order.
According to several people familiar with the matter, Biden’s COVID-19 task force has made outreach to governors a top priority. The goal, according to these sources, is to create lines of communication with state and local leaders not only to assess what they need to fight the current wave of the coronavirus, but also to ensure that their constituents have access to a vaccine. But because Biden’s task force has been left out of the Trump administration’s conversations and data collection regarding the vaccine, its members will face additional hurdles to ensure it has it. which it needs to roll out a nationwide distribution campaign.
“There are a lot of questions to ask when it comes to a vaccine. How many health care workers do governors have? Where are the nursing homes in the state? How many health workers are there? All of those kinds of things will involve logistical issues on how to get the vaccines to those parts, ”Sebelius said.
Sources close to his planning said Biden’s task force is working on executive actions the president-elect could take when he takes office, including logistics orders that would essentially streamline mass production of vaccines and of therapeutic products.
Beyond laying the groundwork for a steady and massive rollout of the vaccine, Biden will also need to make sure Americans believe in the vaccine’s effectiveness, health officials said.
For months, health officials wondered if a viable vaccine would be available this winter. Over the past two weeks, however, it has become clear that this is likely to be the case, with Pfizer’s vaccine candidate being the frontrunner.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Daily Beast in an interview this week that Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine has 94% effectiveness. And he believes the unexpected success of the trail will help fight vaccine skepticism that exists among the public.
“My experience with vaccines… you have to be transparent with the process. Everything will eventually be seen by all the eyes that want to see it, ”Fauci said. “But the incentive to take the vaccine is increasing dramatically with these numbers. The effectiveness of this will eliminate some of the reluctance to vaccinate.
Biden is still likely to face a significant setback in its efforts to build trust with communities, especially in Republican counties which for months rejected Centers for Disease Control advice that people wear masks, alienate society and refrain from large gatherings.
For example, in the counties of Kansas, local authorities have chosen to defy governor’s orders and not enforce mask warrants. As a result, several of these regions are experiencing worrying outbreaks. In Nemaha County, a population of 10,000, 200 people were infected with the virus within a week. Experts fear that wearing masks and accepting vaccines are two areas in which the incoming administration faces an uphill battle to transform public opinion.
“We have had very encouraging news about the preliminary results from the Pfizer vaccine, but translating that into a message that the vaccine is safe, effective, available and reliable is a much longer process,” said Dr Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control.
Trump’s refusal to concede the election will make it more difficult, as hospitalization rates from COVID have reached an all time high. In Wisconsin, health officials are seeing more average cases per day than during the peak of the virus in New York City, state data shows. In North Dakota, outbreak is so severe hospitals leave asymptomatic COVID-19 positive doctors and nurses are treating coronavirus patients, Governor Doug Burgum said at a press conference Monday. That same scenario played out in Manhattan during the spring case outbreak.
At the same time, the president has been so engrossed in his legal battles in an attempt to retain power that he has left control of COVID-19 planning to Scott Atlas, a White House adviser who clashed to other members of the working group while push the dangerous theory of “herd immunity” to solve the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Biden team has launched a nationwide effort to promote the importance of masks and social distancing – two issues that advisers to the president-elect say have yet to be embraced by large swathes of the world. country, and health experts from both fields say it’s vital that Biden’s messaging wins.
“It’s a really hard virus to fight. And if you’re not organized, you don’t fight effectively, you don’t communicate effectively, and you don’t do things that have been proven to work, you can’t, ”Frieden said. “So I hope that over the next couple of months we will see an improvement in the handling of the virus, because it is a really dangerous time. Unless we change our plans for Thanksgiving, we’re not going to have a very merry Christmas. “
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