Biden White House to resume COVID-19 briefings with health officials

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The Biden White House announced it will resume regular briefings with public health experts focused on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, reviving an approach that had fizzled out during the Trump administration even as the outbreak worsened.

The White House anticipates holding three briefings each week led by public health officials and members of the administration’s COVID-19 response team, press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. The first of those briefings will take place on Monday, and will “continue regularly for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The briefings are expected to take place in addition to the daily appearances by Psaki to field questions on other topics. Anthony Fauci, a member of the coronavirus response team and the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, joined Psaki at a briefing last week.

The inclusion of public health officials in the messaging effort around the pandemic marks the latest instance of how the Biden White House is putting distance between its handling of the pandemic and the Trump administration’s response.

“[Biden] will be briefed regularly. I suspect far more regularly than the past president was briefed on covid,” Psaki said Monday when asked whether Biden would attend meetings of his virus response team.

Former President Trump was largely disengaged from the pandemic response in his final months in office, and the past administration largely refrained from bringing health officials to the podium to update the public on the virus past last summer.

Other changes from the last administration have been apparent in the early days of Biden’s term.

Biden has worn a mask behind the Resolute Desk to sign executive orders in recent days. Former President Donald Trump scoffed at the idea of wearing a mask in the Oval Office early in the pandemic, and rarely was spotted with a face covering in public.

Masks are also widespread among White House aides, though Psaki and other officials have removed their face coverings to speak at the podium.

Trump administration officials typically did the same, though the use of masks was far less prevalent. Guidance requiring the use of masks in the West Wing only lasted a few weeks before falling by the wayside.

In addition, while journalists and guests could mostly come and go from the Trump White House so long as they had a pass to gain access, Biden officials have implemented stricter protocols. The administration, in partnership with the White House Correspondents’ Association, has limited the number of journalists allowed in the complex at a given time, and those inside must test negative on the same day to gain access.

The Biden team has some added benefits that come with being farther removed from the beginning of the pandemic as well. For example, the president, vice president, first lady and senior staff have been vaccinated. A handful of Trump administration officials were vaccinated, including former Vice President Mike Pence. But Trump, who contracted the virus last September, never got the shot.

Tags Anthony Fauci Biden transition Coronavirus Donald Trump Inauguration Jen Psaki Mike Pence press briefings task force White House

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