The transition team for President-elect Joe Biden on Monday tapped an executive at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Dr. Julie Morita – to sit on the 13-member task force advising the incoming administration on how it should navigate the COVID-19 pandemic come the inauguration planned for Jan. 20.
Morita, the executive vice president of RWJF, boasts a decades-long resume in public health.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve on the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board in my personal capacity,” Morita said in a statement. “While enormous challenges lay ahead, we must meet this pandemic head-on with a steadfast commitment to science and by prioritizing the people and communities most affected by COVID-19.”
In New Jersey at least, the state has seen more than 2,000 cases for several days in the last week and a half, beating months-long records as it rides a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli warned that the state should expect to see between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases a day in the near future. More than 9,000 new cases have been diagnosed since Thursday.
In response to the past month and a half of mounting cases, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed a curfew that bans indoor dining past 10 p.m., beginning this Thursday.
He extolled the task force in a Monday statement for being “stocked with experts who understand this virus doesn’t care about politics.”
Total U.S. cases flew past 10 million on Monday, and all 50 states reported surges in new cases.
“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,” Biden said in a Monday morning statement.
“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”
Biden’s COVID-19 plan calls for nationalizing the supply chain of personal protective equipment like gloves and masks – rather than leaving it to the individual states.
It calls for doubling the nation’s testing capacity, and a $25 billion “vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan” that would provide the vaccine free of charge.
A breakthrough by Pfizer in a potential COVID-19 vaccine has made state health officials and the governor optimistic that the virus could be brought significantly under control in the next six months.
The governor on Monday called it a “six-month race to the finish line,” and Persichilli said widespread distribution of the vaccine is likely by April 2021.
But Persichilli said New Jersey faces the daunting task of getting the vaccine administered to 70% of the state’s eligible population, or 4.7 million adults. The first priority is the roughly half a million health care workers, Persichilli said.
And critical factors like how many doses the state would get from the federal government, vaccine distribution, and the long-term effectiveness, all remain far from certain.