Fauci to have first ‘substantive discussions’ with Biden team

Fauci to have first ‘substantive discussions’ with Biden team

White House coronavirus task force member Dr Anthony Fauci will meet members of President-elect Joe Biden’s team on Thursday after President Donald Trump’s administration delayed the transition process for weeks amid a coronavirus surge across the United States.

Fauci has already met with incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, he told CBS News in an interview on Thursday but pointed out the meeting will be first “substantive discussions” he will have with Biden’s team.

Fauci said he will be meeting them virtually and it “will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the transition between me and the Biden team”.

“I’m very pleased that today we’re having the first discussion about a number of things, vaccinations and things like that,” Fauci said.

He has become the most high-profile member of the White House task force in the months since the pandemic began, often clashing with Trump on how to protect Americans.

Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health, told CBS he will remain in his position, as he is a career government official.

Biden, however, does have several other top healthcare roles to fill as he builds his administration.

Already one prominent candidate to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has faded from the scene. New Mexico Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was offered another Cabinet post — interior secretary — and turned it down, a person close to the Biden transition told The Associated Press news agency on Wednesday. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Lujan Grisham’s office had no comment.

Biden is expected to announce his choice for HHS secretary next week. That person has to have “the confidence of the president, the ability to operate collaboratively across the government, credibility within the health care world, and the capacity to work with the states,” said former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who served under Republican President George W Bush.

Rhode Island Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo has emerged as a focus of attention for the top health job. Although Raimondo has been aggressive in confronting the virus, her state is facing a dangerous surge and struggling to flatten the curve. Separately, Raimondo’s business-friendly orientation may raise objections from the left flank of the Democratic Party.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is reportedly being considered as Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary [File: David Goldman/AP Photo]Also in the running is former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force. Murthy has a soft-spoken demeanour and a reputation for consensus-building. He is the author of a recent book addressing the human toll of loneliness, a problem that has become more widely recognised in the time of COVID-19.

Also reportedly being considered for HHS secretary, former US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy [File: Democratic National Convention via AP]Alongside his health secretary, Biden is expected to name a top-level White House adviser to coordinate the government’s extensive coronavirus response. Vaccines developed under the Trump administration will be delivered on Biden’s watch, a massive undertaking that is bound to have its share of logistical problems. Democratic health policy experts say the leading candidate is businessman Jeff Zients, an economic adviser in the Obama White House who was widely credited with rescuing HealthCare.gov after its disastrous launch in 2013.

Keeping the focus on the virus, Biden is also said to be close to nominating a commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Under consideration for FDA are former deputy commissioner Dr Joshua Sharfstein, who has also served as Maryland’s health secretary, and Dr Luciana Borio, a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board who formerly held senior posts with the FDA and the National Security Council and has expertise in responding to disease outbreaks and bioterrorism.

Being considered for CDC director is Dr Julie Morita, a top executive of the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which works across a broad range of health care issues. Morita spent nearly 20 years in leadership jobs with the Chicago public health department, rising from medical director to commissioner.