Biden names COVID-19 task force; UCSF professor to lead team

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President-elect Joe Biden’s first order of business is to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to surge in the U.S.

Early Monday, he named his Coronavirus Task Force, to be co-chaired by Dr. David Kessler, UCSF professor and former FDA Commissioner; Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as Surgeon General in the Obama administration; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale.

Two other members of the task force are also from UCSF: Dr. Robert Rodriquez, an emergency medicine expert who has researched mental health of COVID-19 responders; and Dr. Eric Goosby, an infectious disease expert who has worked in AIDS/HIV.

Also notable on the task force is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert and former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that the Trump administration demoted him because he resisted political pressure to approve widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment.

"I think this is the A team. This is the team you want," said Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who said the panel represents a group with a depth and breadth of expertise. "It’s really a terrific group, I really wouldn’t make any changes to it. When I saw the list I thought, 'Wow, they pretty much got it right.'"

Biden and his team are facing a serious crisis come January, with the U.S. finding over 100,000 new cases daily and nearing 10 million total cases.

"The tone is one in which we are going to have world class experts telling us what the best science dictates we should be doing and we will then develop a plan for implementing it," said UCSF Chair of the Department of Medicine Dr. Bob Wachter, who has consulted with Biden’s team.

He said they are doing to have to develop a comprehensive and detailed approach with the pandemic in flux around the country.

"What we need to do now with a test positivity rate in San Francisco of about 1.2 % is very different from what they need to do in South Dakota, where it’s about 30 or 40%,” he said.

Wachter said despite the drastic situation in some parts of the country, he does not expect Biden to implement a national lockdown as France has done this month, and would not advise one.

Dr. Wachter said we can expect a smaller than usual inauguration with all attendees wearing face masks.