Biden announces coronavirus team as US cases soar

US President-elect, Joe Biden removes his facemask as he arrives to speak at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.

Jim Watson / AFP

WASHINGTON - US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named the scientists who will lead his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, signaling his plans to prioritize COVID-19 from the outset.

The advisory board will be led by three co-chairs: epidemiologist and former Federal Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner David Kessler, former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and Yale public health professor Marcella Nunez-Smith, according to a statement from the Biden transition team.

In addition, the board will have ten members, ranging from immunologists and epidemiologists to biodefense experts and leading public health officials.

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The announcement came before US company Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech announced Monday that a vaccine they had jointly developed had so far proven 90-percent effective in preventing infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials - news that cheered scientists, politicians and markets.

COVID-19 has left more than 237,000 people dead in the US - the worst death toll globally - and is surging across the country, which last week voted out Donald Trump in a nailbiting poll.

According to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, the number of new cases in the US has topped 100,000 every 24 hours for several days running, and is nearing 10 million in total - showing no sign of slowing despite Trump's claim the world's biggest economy is "rounding the corner".

The pandemic remains "one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Biden was quoted as saying in the statement.

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The board will help shape his approach on the surge in cases across the country as well as ensuring a safe vaccine is distributed efficiently while protecting at-risk populations.

The president-elect has promised that they will create a blueprint he will begin implementing on day one of his presidency.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have announced they will receive a joint virus briefing Monday in Wilmington, Delaware from their advisory team.

Biden will then deliver remarks on coronavirus and economic recovery.