Biden weighs top COVID advisers

As President-elect Joe Biden makes fighting the coronavirus his most urgent mission when he takes office next month, two figures playing central roles in his transition are emerging as the most likely possibilities to preside over the new White House’s pandemic response. One contender for Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, envisioned as a powerful role in setting the agenda and orchestrating the work of federal agencies, is Jeff Zients, a co-chairman of the Biden transition team who led the Obama administration’s National Economic Council. Another is Vivek H. Murthy, a co-chair of the transition’s COVID-19 advisory board and a former U.S. surgeon general. Several individuals close to the Biden transition said decisions could be announced as early as next week on health leadership roles.

CDC chief offers dire assessment for U.S.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the country is about to go through “the most difficult time in the public health history of the nation.” Dr. Robert Redfield made the comment during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation webcast Wednesday. Redfield says earlier surges in COVID-19 were concentrated in one area of the country or another, and health care workers and equipment could be shifted from one place to another to deal with it. But now, he says, all parts of the country are seeing rising infections and illnesses. “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times,” he said. “I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

Virus relief bill making headway

President-elect Biden swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday and his top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid as the tempestuous congressional session speeds to a close. Biden said the developing aid package “wouldn’t be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things.” He wants a relief bill to pass Congress now, with more aid to come next year. Biden’s remarks followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the “basis” for discussions. The announcement appeared aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.

Stay home — again, health experts urge

Health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to stay home over the upcoming holiday season and consider getting tested for coronavirus before and after if they do decide to travel. The CDC said the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home. That’s the same advice health experts had over Thanksgiving, but many Americans traveled anyway. During a news briefing, the CDC said travelers should consider getting COVID-19 tests one to three days before their trips and again three to five days afterward. They also recommended reducing nonessential activities for a full week after travel or for 10 days if not tested afterward.

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