Biden COVID-19 task force says transition delay could be compromising U.S. virus response

(Reuters) – Medical experts advising President-elect Joe Biden on the COVID-19 pandemic fear that the federal government’s delay in recognizing Biden’s election victory could be compromising the U.S. response to the virus, the experts said on Tuesday.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said the experts had not been able to speak to current administration officials dealing with the virus, even as the United States is hit by a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

That could damage the incoming administration’s ability to distribute a vaccine, for example, Murthy said.

“We need to talk to those individuals, we need to work together with them,” Murthy said on a call with reporters arranged by Biden’s transition team.

The General Services Administrator has not yet recognized Biden as the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election, which is needed to release government funding for the transition. A spokeswoman said the administrator was following precedent and would make a decision once the winner is clear.

The experts were unable to access real-time data, including on hospital bed capacity and the amount of drugs and equipment in government stockpiles, said Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general and one of 13 experts Biden last week appointed to advise him on COVID-19 during the transition.

“We can look at the publicly available data, but we don’t have access to the full range of information that the federal government has to prepare for January 20,” Murthy said.