President-elect Joe Biden, speaking during an interview with CNN that aired on Thursday evening, announced that he had asked Anthony Fauci, the current director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, to remain as an adviser in the White House when Biden becomes president.
Biden also signaled during the interview that he will encourage Americans to wear masks in order to quell the spread of coronavirus, in a stark contrast to Trump’s dismissive stance toward masks and face coverings.
Biden has previously acknowledged that he probably does not have the authority to issue a national mandate to wear masks, but on Thursday he said he will order masks to be worn in certain areas that are under his purview — likely federal buildings and other properties managed by the government. Beyond that, he also said he’d encourage every person in the U.S. to wear masks for his first 100 days in office.
“Just 100 days to mask. Not forever — 100 days. I think we’ll see a significant reduction if that occurs with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably,” Biden said.
The president-elect also spoke about the high probability of a vaccine being made available after he assumes office, saying he would get vaccinated right away to show Americans it is safe — with Fauci’s approval, he added.
“When Dr. Fauci says we have a vaccine that is safe, that’s the moment in which I will stand before the public,” Biden explained. “It’s important to communicate to the American people it’s safe. It’s safe to do this.”
Biden also announced during the program that Fauci, who is widely regarded as an authoritative source on the subject of infectious diseases, would continue his work on COVID-19 within his administration as director of NIAID, a member of the White House coronavirus response team and Biden’s chief medical adviser.
Speaking on NBC’s “TODAY” show program on Friday morning, Fauci said he accepted the roles “right on the spot” when he was asked by Biden. The infectious diseases expert also said he already gave the president-elect a word of warning: 100 days to mask might not be enough.
Fauci described the initiative as “a good idea,” but also advised that concerted mask-wearing beyond the 100 days may still be necessary. “It might be that after that, we still are going to need it,” Fauci said.
Biden’s approach to the pandemic already represents a stark departure from Trump’s. The president-elect’s words indicate he’s more likely to base his decisions on science and to listen to medical experts like Fauci.
During the past year, Trump and his allies often sought to discredit Fauci. In July, for example, members of the White House unsuccessfully attempted to push a smear campaign against the NIAID director. During a conference call in October, Trump also described Fauci and others who shared his views about better ways to contain the virus as “idiots” but acknowledged that it would set off a metaphorical “bomb” if he attempted to fire Fauci during the presidential campaign.
The Biden administration will face huge challenges in its attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington estimates a significantly high number of deaths from COVID-19 will occur in the next two months, with the cumulative number of Americans dying from the virus reaching 404,000 by the time Biden is inaugurated — nearly 128,000 additional coronavirus deaths between today and January 2021.
As of Friday morning, more than 14.2 million cases of coronavirus have been identified in the U.S., with 276,375 having died from it so far since the pandemic began.