White House coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that he wants to share information about the pandemic and that it shouldn’t be a political process.
“I want to be as transparent as possible with everybody, this is not a political issue,” Giroir said. “This is an issue of public health and saving American lives. And I think there’s nothing more important than that.”
President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden has prevented the transition process from formally beginning. The General Services Administration has yet to “ascertain” the winner of the election, leaving Biden and his advisers without the resources to ensure a smooth transition.
When “This Week” Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz asked about the importance of a smooth transition between administrations for the pandemic response, Giroir said that while the GSA controls the process, “My team, all the docs that work for us, we want to be extremely transparent.”
In a separate interview on “This Week,” Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board member Dr. Atul Gawande said the team is “ready to go,” and reiterated that a transition is incredibly important.
“It is in the nation’s interest that the transition team get the threat assessments … understand the vaccine distribution plans, you need to know where the stockpiles are, what status is of masks and gloves,” Gawande said. “There’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. It can’t wait to the last minute. You can hear in Admiral Giroir’s voice the doctors and scientists want to give us that information, it is vital.”
As the coronavirus rages across the country, Giroir also confirmed reports that the president had not attended a coronavirus task meeting in five months, but tried to downplay concerns about the president’s attendance, saying that he’s regularly briefed by officials who go to briefings more frequently.
“The vice president briefs the president every day or nearly every day on coronavirus, so I’m not concerned that the president doesn’t attend,” Giroir said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The vice president is there, Secretary Azar, the leadership that’s there, the scientific community, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, myself, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Redfield. We’re all working and the docs work literally every single day together.”
The news that Trump hadn’t attended a task force meeting in months was first reported by The Washington Post.
And when pressed about how the Biden administration would respond to the surge in cases, Gawande said Sunday that the Biden team does not support a nationwide lockdown, favoring a more targeted approach. One Biden adviser, Dr. Michael Osterholm, floated the possibility of a four- to six-week nationwide shutdown earlier this week but has since walked back his comments.
“We can get this under control,” he said. “The critical parts are understanding what we’ve learned since we did a nationwide lockdown in early April. And that is that you can have targeted measures building on mask wearing, to include wide-spread testing, can include dialing up and down capacity restrictions. And those measures need to happen in a more localized basis.”
As for his recommendations on how to slow the spread of the virus, Gawande said that a “clear voice” from the top backing the national comprehensive plan could help get more Americans to believe scientist’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus.
“We’ve lacked that. It’s led to disarray for the public, confusing messages,” he said. “That will change.”
Giroir did ask Americans to take basic health precautions — like wearing a mask, something Trump has rarely done in public — and said that bars and restaurants will need to close to get this virus under control.
“When you cannot physically distance, everybody needs to wear a mask in public spaces. That’s absolutely critically important. They do work.” Giroir said.
“We’re going to have to do things like limit attendance or close bars, close in-door restaurants, because that’s very important,” he added. “If we do these things, combined with the testing that we have, we can flatten the curve. If we do not do these things, the cases will continue to go up.”
Giroir went on to say Sunday that news of a potential vaccine that has been shown to be 90% effective is a “game changer,” but the country remains in a critical situation.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country, with more than 163,000 new cases identified Saturday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. A record number of people, more than 69,000, are hospitalized.
Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, announced Monday that a COVID-19 vaccine in late-stage trials appears to be 90% effective in an early analysis. Assistant professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, David Benkeser, told ABC News that’s “about as good as you could hope for at this point.”