Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that it “is obvious” that delaying the presidential transition is not good from a public health perspective as daily Covid-19 cases continue to soar and set records.
“I have been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years,” Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And it’s very clear that that transition process that we go through, that time period of measured in several weeks to months, is really important in a smooth handing over of the information.”
Comparing the transition process to “passing a baton in a race,” he added, “It certainly would make things more smoothly if we could do that.”
Asked if he thinks it’s a good idea if his team could work with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team now, Fauci said, “Of course.”
“That is obvious,” he added. “Of course it would be better if we could start working with them.”
President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his continued legal battles across several battleground states have delayed the start of the formal transition process, stonewalling Biden from gaining access to key information. Biden’s team has said the transition is progressing in spite of Trump, but officials have acknowledged the longer the delay goes on, the worse its effects will be.
Meanwhile, Fauci spoke as case counts have surged nationwide, with record-setting day following record-setting day. On Friday, cases nationwide neared 180,000 in a single day and had increased by nearly 20,000 from Thursday. Additionally, hospitalizations are rapidly increasing too.
Also on “State of the Union,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said “it’s important for a normal transition” to begin.
“It’s clear,” DeWine said, “Joe Biden is the president-elect.”
“For the country’s sake, it’s important for a normal transition to start through,” he added. “And the president can go on his other track and his legal track. We should respect that, but we also need to begin that process.”
Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of the Biden transition’s Covid-19 advisory board, told ABC’s “This Week” that Biden needs access to privileged information about coronavirus so he can be fully prepared to deal with the crisis once he takes office.
“It is in the nation’s interest that the transition team get the threat assessments that the team knows about … understand the vaccine distribution plans, need to know where the stockpiles are, what the status is of masks and gloves,” he said. “There’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. It can’t wait until the last minute.”
Elsewhere in his interview, Fauci said it is possible for the U.S. to see an additional 200,000 coronavirus deaths in just the next two months. So far, nearly 250,000 Americans have died due to the virus.
There was positive news on the vaccine front this week as Pfizer announced its trial candidate reached 90 percent effectiveness. But Fauci said caution should not be abandoned once people are vaccinated.
“So, when I get vaccinated, which I hope to when it becomes my turn to get vaccinated, I’m not going to abandon completely public health measures,” Fauci said. “I could feel more relaxed, in essentially not having the stringency of it that we have right now, but I think abandoning it completely would not be a good idea.”
Fauci also praised Biden for selecting Ron Klain as his incoming chief of staff, saying he worked closely with Klain in 2014-2015 during the Ebola outbreak.
“He was absolutely terrific at the Ebola situation, where we had a very successful ultimate endgame with Ebola,” Fauci said. “We developed therapies. We put out the outbreak in a — it was a terrible outbreak, obviously. But we ultimately were very successful.”
Speaking with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Klain also stressed the importance of beginning the formal transition.
“Biden’s going to become president in the midst of an ongoing crisis,” he said. “Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops.”
Fauci said Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting for “several months.” Speaking with “This Week,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, also confirmed the president has not attended such a meeting in five months
“The vice-president is there, Secretary Azar, the leadership that’s there, the scientific community, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, myself, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Redfield,” Giroir said. “We’re all working and the docs work literally every single day together.”
Speaking to surging cases, Giroir said the U.S. is “in a critical situation today,” saying Americans need to physically distance and wear a mask in public spaces.
“That’s absolutely critically important,” he said. “They do work.”