Won’t it Be Nice to Have a President Who Listens to Science?

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Just days after officially winning the 2020 election, President-elect Joe Biden has announced his COVID-19 task force, which will — refreshingly — include a number of epidemiologists and infectious-disease experts.

Like many decisions Biden is likely to make over the coming weeks and months, his task-force lineup may be radical only by comparison to the president’s — when he wasn’t threatening to disband it, Trump’s COVID-19 task force included very few infectious-disease experts, favoring instead a number of his political allies and advisers. If it’s not especially courageous to staff a pandemic-fighting task force with people who know how to fight pandemics, it’s now oddly novel — and quite reassuring.

Relatedly, in response to news that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine looks to be 90 percent effective (at least according to their own press release), Biden was cautiously optimistic — with an emphasis on cautiously: “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year,” he said. “Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact.” Biden’s comments, which echo public-health guidelines, mark a dramatic shift from his predecessor’s routine mockery of masks.

And where Trump’s task force was led by his vice-president, Biden’s will be led by Vivek Murthy, an actual doctor (and surgeon general under Obama). Biden’s task force will also include Rick Bright, a vaccine expert who previously resigned from his government post in objection to Trump’s disregard for public-health science; Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

In a statement, Biden said that “dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts.” Seems like a solid place to start!

Won’t it Be Nice to Have a President Who Listens to Science?