President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the expert on the coronavirus pandemic, to become his chief medical adviser and part of his Covid-19 response team.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a top official dealing with the pandemic. But President Donald Trump sidelined him at points during the year after Fauci’s stark warnings about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and halting large-scale gatherings.
“I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team,” Biden said.
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Fauci had told CBS News that he would meet Thursday Biden’s transition team to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m going to be meeting with them today, by Zoom,” Fauci told CBS News.
“So today will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the transition between me and the Biden team,” Fauci added. “I’m very pleased that today we’re having the first discussion about a number of things, vaccinations and things like that.”
The meeting comes after more than 273,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and nearly 14 million have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. The meeting with Fauci comes during a surge to more than 2,800 deaths per day, a figure eclipsing the deaths at Pearl Harbor and nearly matching the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Biden supported Fauci throughout the campaign and transition as an expert who could be trusted for guidelines on how to combat the virus – and whether promising vaccines are ready for widespread distribution, as expected later this month.
Fauci has warned about the prospects of a surge in infections after holiday gatherings and because more people are indoors during colder weather. But he has also offered assurances that vaccines regulated by the federal government will be safe.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says a coronavirus vaccine could come earlier than expected.
Biden has repeatedly cautioned that even if vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are approved, it could take months and billions of dollars to distribute them nationwide.
“Help is on the way in terms of vaccines,” Biden told an online roundtable with workers and small-business owners Wednesday.
But he continued to warn against travel and large family gatherings for the holidays.
“Christmas is going to be a lot harder,” Biden said, after holding Thanksgiving on Zoom. “I don’t want to scare anybody here, but understand the facts. We’re likely to lose another 250,000 dead between now and January.”
Biden told reporters Tuesday that his staffers have spoken with Fauci, but that he hadn’t spoken directly with him.
“He’s been very, very helpful,” Biden said.
Fauci told CBS he has spoken to Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, a few times, but that the conversations weren’t “substantive,” according to CBS and CNN. Fauci has said he thought the Biden’s team was keeping him at arm’s length to avoid disputes with Trump.
Biden is expected to name his health team next week, after already announcing his foreign-affairs and economics teams.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID: Joe Biden names Anthony Fauci chief medical adviser on pandemic