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For virus briefings, Biden says he’s ‘bringing back the pros’

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For virus briefings, Biden says he's 'bringing back the pros'

For virus briefings, Biden says he’s ‘bringing back the pros’

 

He said Tuesday, repeating a central pledge of his inaugural address, “I will always level with you on the state of affairs.”

This is a message that has helped bring Biden to the White House. As a candidate, he warned that in what would be a “dark winter,” the nation faced a surge of coronavirus cases; Trump, for his part, falsely claimed the worst of the virus was over.

Dr. David Hamer, a professor of global health and medicine at the School of Public Health at Boston University, said it would go a long way towards improving public perceptions of the vaccine by having briefings from health officials that are “based on serious science.”

“There is a certain amount of hesitancy in the vaccine, so it is really important to educate people about the vaccine, how it works, how it is safe and how it can protect against the disease but also slow transmission,” he said.

The stakes could hardly be higher for Biden, whose presidency depends on his handling of the pandemic and the largest vaccination campaign in global history.

Biden is pushing a weary population to reconnect to measures of social distancing and mask-wearing, pointing to scientific models that suggest that practises in the coming months could save 50,000 lives. He has stressed the best behaviours for the nation by members of his administration model.

In the former administration, those messages found few champions, as Trump openly flouted science-based guidance from his own administration. At his reelection rallies, face coverings were sparse and social distance was almost nonexistent.

The U.S. recorded new cases and reported deaths almost daily in the weeks leading up to the inauguration of Biden, as many states reimposed costly restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Even so, Trump limited his top scientists and public health officials’ media appearances and continued to spread misinformation.

Asked by CNN last week if the Trump administration’s lack of candour about the virus had cost lives, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, replied, “You know, it very likely did.”

The Trump administration ended the practise of regular scientific briefings early on in the pandemic, after Trump expressed anger over the dire warnings of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Nancy Messonnier in February about the threat from the virus.

Trump later told journalist Bob Woodward that to avoid creating panic about the virus, he had been “playing it down.” Aides said that he was also seeking to preserve the economy to improve his chances for reelection.

“Last spring, when the pandemic took place in the U.S., Trump assumed the position of “wartime president,” attending extended briefings at the White House, where he was the star, not science. For his early appearances, Trump pointed to the strong television ratings and timed the sessions to overtake the national evening news.

Trump expressed his doubts about face coverings from the briefing room, despite the scientists’ common observations that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of the virus. He wondered aloud if, like cleaning a floor, Americans would ingest toxic bleach to destroy the virus. He encouraged governors, even as cases surged, to “reopen” their states.

The briefing on Wednesday will be conducted virtually, instead of in person at the White House, to allow health journalists to ask questions and to maintain a set timing in the West Wing regardless of the schedule. It will feature Jeff Zients, the pandemic response coordinator of the Biden administration; his deputy, Andy Slavitt; Fauci; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the equality task force of Biden’s COVID-19; and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.

It comes as government scientists, led by Fauci, have been making regular media appearances in television and podcast interviews to share their expertise. Fauci called his current circumstances “liberating” last week, offering that “one of the new things in this administration is, don’t guess if you don’t know the answer.”

Hamer said that enough confusion and distrust had been created by the Trump administration around the coronavirus and vaccine that the Biden administration has a long way to go to rebuild public confidence, adding that some Americans may never come around.

“It is going to take time. It is difficult to say exactly how much damage was done,’ he said. In the country, I think there might be pockets that might be more resistant to listening to evidence, because they may have focused their minds on what they have heard from the past. But others can still be influenced and educated.

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