President-elect Joe Biden promised that his Covid-19 pandemic response would be guided by science. His transition team has announced the scientific board of advisers who will guide his administration-in-waiting’s decision-making.
The board, according to the Biden team’s transition website, has three co-chairs, all medical doctors:
- David Kessler: Former FDA commissioner, and current University of California San Francisco biostatistician.
- Vivek Murthy: Former Surgeon General in the Obama administration.
- Marcella Nunez-Smith: A physician and professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University.
The rest of the board consists of doctors, scientists, and public health experts, many of whom have been very active and vocal in the pandemic response to date:
- Luciana Borio: A senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations with expertise in biodefense.
- Rick Bright: An immunologist and former director of BARDA (the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority). Bright filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump’s administration handling of the pandemic after he was demoted from his position at BARDA.
- Ezekiel Emanuel: An oncologist, and vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Atul Gawande: A surgeon, writer, and professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Celine Gounder: An infectious diseases specialist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine with experience responding to HIV epidemics around the globe.
- Julie Morita: Former Chicago health commissioner.
- Michael Osterholm: Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
- Loyce Pace: Executive director and president of the Global Health Council.
- Robert Rodriguez: Professor of emergency medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine who has researched how the pandemic has impacted health care providers.
- Eric Goosby: Former US global AIDS coordinator, and former interim director of the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy in the Clinton administration.
Many of the people on this list have been offering evidence-based advice to the government this year — through op-eds, media appearances, and in the case of Rick Bright, an 89-page whistleblower complaint— but have been largely ignored. Finally, their expertise is being taken seriously by the incoming White House.
This team, and the incoming Biden administration, have their work cut out for them. The US continues to break new daily case records for Covid-19, with no end to the climb in case counts in sight. Meanwhile, hospitalizations are nearing new highs and deaths are on an upward trajectory. By the time the Biden team takes power, they’ll possibly be fighting a pandemic that’s raging even more intensely.
The new administration’s work may be made more difficult considering the US Senate may still be in Republican hands, and may reject the administration’s requests for funding. That said, a Biden administration could still do a lot to help fight the pandemic, as Vox’s German Lopez writes.
“Perhaps most importantly, Biden could, on day one, stop the constant stream of lies and misinformation that have come out of Trump and his White House daily,” Lopez writes. “That begins with Biden’s promise to use his bully pulpit to empower scientists — put them at the head of the federal response, as well as in charge of regular briefings to the public about what’s going on.”
Hopefully, this group can help Biden achieve this most basic goal.