President-elect Biden will address growing concerns about new, more transmissible coronavirus variants as he lays out his plans to speed up the sluggish U.S. vaccine rollout in a press conference this week, two of his top Covid-19 advisers confirmed to STAT.
Biden was briefed on the variant that first appeared in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7, soon after his Covid-19 advisory board convened an emergency meeting on Christmas Eve to discuss the new strains and the threat they posed.
The group’s early reaction to the new variants — which came nearly a week before the strain was first identified in the United States — highlights both the detail and intensity with which Biden’s advisers are planning the incoming administration’s pandemic response, as well as the enormity of the challenge they will face. The presence of a more transmissible strain could make an already-disastrous situation even worse: Roughly 2,700 Americans are dying each day on average, meaning Biden will soon inherit a daily tragedy similar in death toll to 9/11.
At one point during the emergency Christmas Eve gathering, advisers discussed imposing additional restrictions on international travel (the federal government has since announced that travelers arriving from the U.K. must display a recent negative coronavirus test result to gain entry), one meeting attendee recalled. Another major theme in discussions, the advisers said, was the need to massively scale up the government’s genomic sequencing efforts so that public health officials can better monitor emerging new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19.
Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board has also discussed the need to dramatically accelerate vaccine distribution in light of the more transmissible variants. [Continue reading…]