- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2020

Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden and his team are getting in touch with state leaders and titans of U.S. industry about forthcoming coronavirus and economic plans as Mr. Biden looks for workarounds to the Trump administration during the transition.

Mr. Biden spoke Monday with the CEOs of major companies including General Motors, Microsoft and Target, as well as leaders of top labor unions, as he stressed the need to hit the ground running on both the coronavirus and the economy.

He said the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with his transition team, particularly on a COVID-19 vaccination plan, could prove deadly.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Mr. Biden said as he spoke about the economy from Wilmington, Delaware.

Mr. Biden said business and labor leaders agreed that the sooner his transition team receives a plan from the Trump administration, the sooner they can move forward on a vaccine distribution proposal.

Mr. Biden hailed positive developments on vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna as “great news” and said he wouldn’t hesitate to take a vaccine once the scientific community signs off on one.

“Getting a vaccine and a vaccination, though, are two different things,” Mr. Biden said. “Everyone [on] our Zoom today agreed that the sooner we have access to the administration’s distribution plan, the sooner this transition would smoothly move forward.”

Mr. Biden has vowed to move forward with the transition as President Trump refuses to concede and Mr. Trump’s team fights the results in court.

Multiple news outlets called the race for Mr. Biden on Nov. 7, though many states still have to certify their election results.

The General Services Administration has not formally acknowledged Mr. Biden as the “apparent” winner, which would unlock additional resources for Mr. Biden’s transition team.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II said his department has already publicized information on its vaccine distribution playbook.

“Once GSA determines that there is, if there is, a transition to do, we will ensure that it’s cooperative and professional,” Mr. Azar said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

He said HHS will be in touch with Mr. Biden’s team “when and if it’s appropriate to do that.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a prominent Trump critic, recently said his office and Mr. Biden’s staff have been in touch.

Michael Osterholm, a member of Mr. Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, said Monday that governors are simply looking for guidance as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

“So what you’re hearing is all these governors and mayors are scrambling to try to find what is the right answer for us,” Mr. Osterholm said on “CBS This Morning.” “And it would surely help all of them, and that’s what I’m hearing from them, if we had a standardized set of recommendations and protocols.”

Ron Klain, who Mr. Biden has tapped to be his chief of staff, said over the weekend that advisers plan to meet with officials at drug companies such as Pfizer as the companies get set for a major vaccine distribution effort in the coming months.

Mr. Biden has already said he plans to use the bully pulpit to try to get governors and local elected leaders to approve mask mandates, which he has acknowledged he likely can’t do at a national level.

“It’s going to be important in the next 10 weeks that Joe Biden establish a very close relationship with governors across this country — red state and blue state governors,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and former health and human services secretary during the Obama administration.

Some Republicans have started referring to Mr. Biden as the president-elect, while others say the transition should move forward even as Mr. Trump’s legal proceedings play out.

Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said there will be a “professional transition” in comments that were streamed Monday.

“If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner, and obviously things look that way now, we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council,” Mr. O’Brien said at a global security forum hosted by the Soufan Center.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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