Trump team preps for vaccine deployment to 50 states as Biden urges GSA to unlock transition resources so he can plan for pandemic as ‘apparent’ election winner

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

Federal officials on Wednesday expressed confidence that every state will have access to at least some doses of a potentially effective COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within 24 hours after federal authorization of new drugs (The Hill), even as President-elect Joe Biden said the General Services Administration (GSA) should unlock his own pandemic transition planning capabilities by naming him the “apparent” election winner over President Trump.

“Every jurisdiction will have access immediately upon the initial push of the vaccine,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. After the initial distribution, there will be weekly replenishments to cities, counties and states as more doses become available, Perna said.

On a video call with nurses and first responders to discuss COVID-19, Biden complained on Wednesday that he is hampered in his ability to fully plan a national pandemic response, even as he confers as a fallback with public health and research experts outside the administration. “We’re all ready to go and do an awful lot of the work right now,” he added.

As Perna and Biden spoke, the coronavirus continued to swamp healthcare systems and kill more than 1,100 Americans daily. But the surge in infections speeds up testing of vaccines that could eventually end the pandemic. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna are accelerating testing of their vaccines, which appear to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Both companies say their trial drugs are around 95 percent effective, according to research data (The New York Times). Both companies expect to soon seek emergency vaccine approval from the government (STAT News).

A study published today in the medical journal Lancet details encouraging news from AstraZeneca and Oxford University. A new potential COVID-19 vaccine triggered a strong immune response in adults older than 70. That age category is considered high risk for serious illness and death when infected. Researchers expect to release late-stage trial results by Christmas (Reuters).

State & City Watch: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is under attack from state and national Republicans who say new restrictions are a draconian overreach, even as her efforts are praised by leading public health experts as a smart, targeted approach that should be a model for the rest of the country (The Hill). … Wisconsin’s mask mandate will remain in place until next year, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said on Wednesday (The Hill). … Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued a new mask mandate that’s set to take effect before Thanksgiving (The Hill). … Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) today will announce new restrictions to close bars, restaurants, gyms and museums for a month, with no social gatherings permitted beyond household members because of rising confirmed cases of the coronavirus (Twin Cities Pioneer Press). … Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a Trump ally, vows there will be no more lockdowns in the Sunshine State. He believes restrictions are excessive because COVID-19 is survivable for most who contract it. He said residents of assisted living facilities need special protection (The Hill). … Pennsylvania tells residents to wear masks in their homes when hosting guests (The Hill). … New York City schools, the largest school system in the country, will close Nov. 19 because of a surge in virus cases (The Associated Press). … Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that Nationals Park will serve as a COVID-19 testing center for the city starting on Monday. Firehouses in the city are extending hours for free testing, also beginning on Monday (Fox 5).

In the nation’s capital, Congress is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases among lawmakers while doing exactly what Americans are being warned not to do for Thanksgiving this year: congregating together after traveling from around the country. In the last week, seven members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 and three are quarantining after exposure to people with confirmed infections.

The cases come as the Capitol physician began offering expanded testing this week to help locate asymptomatic cases as lawmakers travel back and forth from their districts. Lawmakers continue to struggle with masks and social distancing. Extroverted members have trouble resisting group gatherings, and some still are not wearing masks correctly eight months into the pandemic, reports The Hill’s Cristina Marcos. … Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), 65, announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and is quarantining at home (The Seattle Times).

  Holiday shopping: Black Friday will have a different look and feel this year as businesses impose new safety measures for shoppers and employees amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Major retailers are moving ahead with in-store events that are still likely to draw large crowds a day after Thanksgiving, when public health experts are urging Americans to avoid travel and remain at home. The annual shopping event carries more anxiety this year and the potential for standoffs over mask requirements as national chains such as Costco take a tough stand on facial coverings for customers (The Hill).

The New York Times: To mitigate infection with COVID-19, scrubbing and disinfecting surfaces is passé. Improving ventilation and air filtration is in, according to the latest research.

The New York Times: Democratic officials in California, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, the House Speaker and the state’s senior senator, have all been photographed flouting coronavirus restrictions and guidance they impose and/or encourage for others. Outrage has followed. “The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted and I’ve got to own that,” Newsom said during a lengthy mea culpa on Monday. “I need to preach and practice. Not just preach.”

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