Joe Biden has announced his own Coronavirus Advisory Board, whose members will form his version of President Donald Trump’s Task Force when he takes office in January.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was not on the list, prompting many to ask why – especially after Biden had hinted that he would rehire Fauci if Trump would dismiss him from his role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Also absent was Deborah Birx, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to her role as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.
Since both Fauci and Birx currently work for the Trump administration in the Coronavirus Task Force, they cannot also work for the incoming administration and president-elect.
Jeff Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said it would be inappropriate for Biden to appoint them to his own task force. However, he said that Fauci and Birx may already be working with Biden’s advisory board.
“We hope that the current White House task force will work closely with the Biden-Harris team to ensure a smooth transition in January,” he told Washington Newsday. “In this regard, Fauci, Birx and the rest of the current White House Task Force would be very important in informing Biden’s COVID 19 Advisory Board about the transition. Of course, it remains to be seen how this actually happens, since the White House has still not admitted to the loss of the election.
“This could lead to a curtailment of this important cooperation and coordination of a responsible change of government, especially in the midst of a pandemic that has so far killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans.
It is likely that Biden will add Fauci to his team once the change in power is complete. One day before the election, when Trump alluded to getting rid of the expert on infectious diseases, Biden twittered: “We need a president who will actually listen to experts like Dr. Fauci.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also signaled support for Fauci. When asked in October if she would take a coronavirus vaccine approved by the current government, she said: “If public health experts, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us to take it, I would be first in line. If Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I won’t take it.
Fauci has worked for both Democratic and Republican presidents for decades, after being appointed to his position as NIH president in 1984. He has advised six presidents on global and national health issues, with Biden set to become the seventh president.
Wendy J. Schiller-Kalunian, professor of public and international affairs at Brown University, said Biden is likely to avoid poaching Fauci at this time to achieve greater stability in dealing with the pandemic. “Appointing Fauci to a Biden task force could upset Trump even more, up to and including dismissing Fauci from his post, which I believe would shake public confidence at a crucial point in the pandemic,” she told Washington Newsday.
“Dr. Fauci is not a political appointee, so he cannot be dismissed by Trump or Biden directly from the federal government. However, there are several layers of politically appointed officials who could remove him as director of the Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and this could happen before Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. But even if Fauci loses his post as director, he could still be active in another role in the federal government”.
The future of Birx and its role in the fight against the pandemic is less clear. Birx has been criticized by both sides for the way she handled her position in the Coronavirus Task Force. In August, Trump described her warnings that the virus was in a new phase as “pathetic”.
Just before that, Birx came under fire from house spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, who said the doctor had enabled Trump to spread misinformation. “I have no confidence in anyone standing there while the president says: Swallow Lysol, it will cure your virus. It will kill you and you will no longer have the virus,” she told CNN, alluding to comments made by Trump. “There must be some responsibility. When the president says these things, who is going to advise him that it’s okay and that it will allow