Joe Biden's Plans To Name COVID Task Force on Monday

His first order of business will be to call Republican and Democratic governors to urge them to adopt mask mandates and communicate the importance of social distancing

Reports from The Washington Post by Yasmeen Abutaleb and  Laurie McGinley - Published on November 7, 2020 at 3:45 p.m. EST

President-elect Joe Biden made his election bid a referendum on President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But as he inherits the worst crisis since the Great Depression — a raging pandemic on top of a teetering economy — his plans to turn that around are set to collide with new political realities.

The closeness of the results underscore voters’ deep divisions about how they tink the virus should be handled. And depending on the outcome of two Senate runoff elections, it is possible Biden will have to navigate a Republican-controlled Senate disinclined to support a greater federal role in testing and contact tracing, among other responsibilities now left mostly to the states. “It’s going to be very challenging for Biden to implement some of the ambitious pandemic preparedness and response plans he has,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Time is not on his side either, as the country surpassed 128,000 cases on Friday, setting a record for the third straight day, and more than 1,000 people a day are dying — a toll that is expected to grow in coming weeks as the weather turns colder and many Americans retreat indoors. Projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggest the worst stretch of the pandemic is likely to hit in mid- to late January, just around the time Biden would take office.

Biden is expected to announce a coronavirus task force Monday, signaling that the virus is his top and immediate priority, according to two people familiar with the plans, who also cautioned that the timing could change and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plans. Among its co-chairs are Vivek H. Murthy, surgeon general during the Obama administration, and David Kessler, Food and Drug Administration commissioner under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Both have briefed Biden on the pandemic for months.

The surge is expected to continue unless Trump undertakes aggressive new measures against the virus in his final two months — a prospect considered unlikely since he has repeatedly claimed the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic, even as cases and hospitalizations climbed.