A Biden win could lead to a mask mandate, more testing: Expert

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told Yahoo Finance Monday a Joe Biden presidency could bring mask mandates and greater investment in treatments and testing to the fore.

If Biden were to take office in January, he said, there would be a far more focused strategy at the federal level.

“I think starting in January, you’re going to see a much bigger push towards testing, towards a national mask mandate,” Jha said, adding that’s what the Biden team has indicated it will do.

In addition, he predicts there’d be more investment in vaccines and treatments than has been made to-date.

“What’s been interesting about the Trump response is for a few months at least … it was a lot of evidence-based approaches. In the last couple of months under Dr. Atlas, it’s very much been a kind of ‘let it go and let people get infected and hope we get to immunity,’ ” Jha said.

The earliest months of the coronavirus outbreak were marked by the formation of the White House coronavirus task force, which included the nation’s top health officials. It’s how Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Robert Redfield, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Sec. Alex Azar, Ambassador Deborah Birx and NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci became household names.

When Operation Warp Speed was launched to coordinate the investment in vaccine efforts, including manufacturing and distribution, it marked a robust public-private partnership that could streamline logistics once a vaccine is authorized or approved.

But that focus on science was derailed when Trump perceived he was losing control of the messaging to the task force’s doctors and brought on Dr. Scott Atlas as a task force advisor, said Jha.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden holds up his face mask as he speaks to members of the media outside a voter service center, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden holds up his face mask as he speaks to members of the media outside a voter service center, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Despite the billions invested in a handful of companies through Operation Warp Speed, investment in treatments and testing has lagged. That was revealed recently from data published by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a part of Health and Human Services.

With the lag in treatments, hospitals are amid the latest surge with no new treatments available and are still struggling with protective gear and testing availability. But even if the country has to wait until January for the change — and watch the death toll rise in the interim — Jha believes it won’t be too late to increase investments if Biden wins.

“What would have been reasonable would have been that back in April and May as these new therapeutics … were being tested, the federal government should have stepped in,” and supported production of tens of millions of doses, Jha said. Instead, the U.S. only has tens of thousands of doses to utilize.

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