President-elect Joe Biden spoke Thursday with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and asked him to serve as a top COVID-19 adviser.
“I asked him to stay in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the COVID team,” Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Fauci is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he has led since 1984.
Biden teased that when he takes office on Jan. 20 he will be asking the public to wear masks for 100 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The former vice president will assume power with a massive deployment of vaccine doses likely already underway. The Food and Drug Administration will meet Dec. 10 to review a Nov. 20 application from Pfizer for a vaccine candidate shown in clinical trials to be about 95 percent effective.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, director of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed said Wednesday that 100 million Americans — or one-third of the population — may be vaccinated by February. An additional 14 million Americans already tested positive for the virus, which has killed 275,000 and caused severe economic and social disruption.
Biden said he and Fauci “talked about masking,” which the medical expert opposed earlier in the pandemic. He appeared unmasked to White House briefings in March and April.
“It is important that we in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks,” Biden said. “But beyond that, where the federal government has authority I’m going to issue a standing order that in federal buildings, you have to be masked and in transportation, interstate transportation, you must be masked, in airplanes and buses, etc.”
Biden added: “I think my inclination, Jake, is in the first day I’m inaugurated to say I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask, not forever, 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction, if we incur that and that occurs with vaccinations and masking to drive down the numbers considerably.”
Biden spoke vaguely of federal compensation for business owners for temporary shutdowns, which generally are ordered by state and local officials.
“You have to make sure as he points out, you don’t have to close down the economy like a lot of folks are talking about now, if in fact you have clear guidance and you’re able to say to businesses, ‘Okay? For example, bars and restaurants are going to close we’re going to provide you the wherewithal to not lose your business like we were like to the House had past, and we’re going to be able to reopen, we’re going to be able to reopen in time and not to close down for long periods of time,” he said.
Fauci is a member of the White House coronavirus task force and is widely respected by Democrats for his willingness to fault President Trump — contributing to a frosty relationship with the White House, which has highlighted his evolving advice during the pandemic.