With the hours dwindling until Joe Biden is sworn in — officially taking the helm of the US government during its worst health crisis in 100 years — a sense of nervousness has set in among those advising the incoming President on the pandemic.
The overarching, nagging concern: “They don’t know what they don’t know,” said a source close to the Biden Covid-19 team.
Biden is set to inherit a nation grieving hundreds of thousands of Americans who have perished from the virus, a health care system buckling under the strain of the pandemic, new variants of the disease popping up around the world and a public that is both stressed about the prospect of when they can get vaccinated, as well as dubious about whether to trust the vaccine when it’s their turn in line.
Multiple officials familiar with the transition said the lack of full cooperation and transparency from the outgoing Trump administration has contributed to Biden’s Covid team feeling frustrated and concerned about having a full understanding of the scope of the problems they will confront on Day One.
But the President-elect’s team feels ready for the fight. “We’re not going to hide from the fact that is going to be a tremendous effort that is going to require the hard work of millions of Americans,” said Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat on the House coronavirus subcommittee who has participated in briefings with Biden’s transition team and was describing their posture coming into office. “It’s not going to be some magical solution.”
The President-elect understands just how much the success of his presidency will depend on his ability to get the virus under control, the source close to Biden’s Covid operation said. The President-elect is anxious and focused on the pandemic right now, which looms large over Wednesday’s inauguration.
Chief among the Biden team’s concerns right now is vaccine supply and turning around the lackluster distribution effort, though new strains of the virus are another persistent worry for the incoming team.