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Health experts call on GSA to recognize Biden victory, allow transition to begin

Health experts call on GSA to recognize Biden victory, allow transition to begin

A group of nearly 200 public health experts is calling on the General Services Administration (GSA) to recognize President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE's election victory and allow the transition to officially begin, a step they say is key in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The former government officials, advocates, medical school deans and other experts said the transition, which is currently being held up by GSA Administrator Emily Murphy amid legal challenges to this month's election from President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE, would enable Biden and his aides to conduct critical meetings with government staffers and receive information that will be needed to effectively curb a rapidly worsening health disaster.

“In light of the public health crisis facing the nation, it is imperative that you ascertain Joe Biden as President-elect immediately under the Presidential Transition Act. Doing so will enable the incoming Biden team to liaise with key health officials in the Trump Administration and prepare a robust, coordinated response to the pandemic,” they wrote in a Thursday letter to Murphy. 

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Among other things, they wrote that a smooth transition is instrumental in maintaining preparation for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, developing mitigation strategies for businesses and schools, gauging hospital capacities and more. And with coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the experts warned a halting response to the pandemic could be costly.

“With the pandemic worsening nationwide and only two months until the transition of power, every day the transition is delayed is a day the country cannot afford. Ensuring a rapid and smooth transition will save American lives. We urge the GSA to make an ascertainment immediately and permit the formal transition process to begin,” the experts wrote.

Signatories to the letter included Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association; Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner; Perry Halkitis, dean and professor of biostatistics and urban-global public health at the School of Public Health at Rutgers University; and Sten Vermund, dean of the Yale School of Public Health.

The letter is the latest salvo in a full-court press by Democrats and public health experts to press Murphy to officially ascertain Biden as the president-elect, a legal requirement needed to allow his transition to begin. Once that is completed, his aides will be able to work alongside government officials and gain access to classified information, helping his future administration be more prepared to tackle issues ranging from the coronavirus to national security threats.

Murphy has refused to recognize Biden as the winner as Trump contests the results of the presidential race with an avalanche of lawsuits in swing states based on spurious claims of voter fraud. 

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Public health experts warn that an unprepared Biden administration could be catastrophic in the fight against the pandemic, given that the nation is already seeing record-high numbers of new cases each day and that the president-elect will take office during a winter in which the crisis is expected to worsen as people socialize in indoor settings where the virus can more easily spread.

"More people may die if we don’t coordinate," Biden said Monday, emphasizing the pressing need for his team to get access to the Trump administration’s plan for distributing a future coronavirus vaccine. 

"If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month, month and a half. And so, it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now," he added.