Biden signals dramatic change with new COVID-19 Advisory Board

The announcement of the Biden/Harris COVID-19 Advisory Board serves as a reminder as to the dramatic changes in store at the White House.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden addresses the nation at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 6, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

During his victory speech on Saturday night, President-Elect Joe Biden told the nation, "On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on Jan. 20, 2021. That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern. I will spare no effort --or commitment -- to turn this pandemic around."

This morning, he followed through. NBC News reported:

Biden took his first steps Monday with the announcement of a Covid-19 task force, led by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University professor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. After the transition website launched Sunday, it received 3 million views within just 15 hours. The most visited page: Biden's plan for Covid-19.

The full list of members on the 13-member panel is online, and as the transition team noted, it's comprised of a group of doctors and scientists who have "served in previous administrations and have experience engaging with and leading our country's response to nationwide and worldwide public health crises."

At face value, this may seem obvious and perfunctory, but it already represents a shift from the status quo. The list of advisory board members, for example, does not include any members of Joe Biden's family. You'll also find no television personalities lacking any relevant skills or experience.

What's more, let's not brush past the fact that the advisory panel includes Dr. Rick Bright, who, up until recently, served as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The scientist has alleged, however, that he was ousted for resisting the White House's political agenda on the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, evidently, the whistleblower is back in a position to help with the U.S. response to the crisis.

As for the news from Pfizer this morning about progress on a coronavirus vaccine, the Biden/Harris transition team issued a statement this morning noting that it was informed of the news last night. And while the incoming administration congratulated those responsible for the apparent breakthrough, the transition team added, "At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away. This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country."

The statement went on to say, "This is why the head of the CDC warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine. Today's news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today's news is great news, but it doesn't change that fact. America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising -- and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today's announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same."

We're clearly going to have to start adjusting our expectations about what we'll hear from those in positions of authority -- because Biden's statement bears no resemblance to what Americans have heard from the outgoing incumbent.