WASHINGTON — Top officials from organizations representing American hospitals, doctors and nurses are calling on President Donald Trump to share critical Covid-19 data with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team “as soon as possible” to "save countless lives."
In a letter released Tuesday, the CEOs of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association urged the Trump administration to “work closely with the Biden transition team to share all critical information related to Covid-19.”
“Real-time data and information on the supply of therapeutics, testing supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital bed capacity and workforce availability to plan for further deployment of the nation’s assets needs to be shared to save countless lives,” they wrote in the letter. “All information about the capacity of the Strategic National Stockpile, the assets from Operation Warp Speed, and plans for dissemination of therapeutics and vaccines needs to be shared as quickly as possible to ensure that there is continuity in strategic planning so that there is no lapse in our ability to care for patients.”
The letter cited their perspective as "providers of care for all Americans" who "see the suffering that is occurring in our communities due to COVID-19. We see families who have lost both parents from COVID-19; we see children suffering from long-term effects due to a COVID-19 infection; and we see minority populations disproportionately suffering from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is from this front line human perspective that we urge you to share critical data and information as soon as possible."
The missive came one day after Biden told reporters “more people may die” if the Trump administration continues to obstruct the smooth transfer of power.
Biden noted that getting a coronavirus vaccine to more than 300 million Americans is a “huge, huge, huge undertaking” that would be further complicated by a delay in the presidential transition.
“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. Now or as rapidly as we can get that done,” Biden said.
Trump's stonewalling of the transition is affecting the incoming team in other ways, as well. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a national security briefing Tuesday, but not from government officials because the Trump administration still hasn't formally approved the transition.
Biden and Harris instead held the meeting with diplomatic, intelligence and defense experts, a Biden transition team official told NBC News. No government officials participated in the briefing, a source familiar with the matter said.
Before the briefing, the president-elect told the more than a dozen national security leaders that his transition and administration “needs them so badly” in his effort to unite Americans, especially now that the Trump administration is not providing him full intelligence briefings.
"I just want to get your input on what you see ahead, and to state the obvious, there is no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the American people," Biden said. "So I appreciate you taking the time and am anxious to hear what you all have to say."
The briefing was part of the incoming administration's effort to pressure the General Services Administration to ascertain the election so that Biden can start receiving intelligence briefings. The GSA has so far refused to sign off on a transition as Trump has refused to concede the election.
In other transition news:
Biden announced several key senior West and East Wing staff appointments, including longtime aide Steve Ricchetti as counselor to the president, and former U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon as Jill Biden's chief of staff.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there will be an "orderly transfer" between administrations Jan. 20, though he did not mention President-elect Joe Biden or President Donald Trump, who is refusing to concede, by name.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who was formally announced as a senior adviser to the president-elect and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, told reporters his new role "will allow me to offer advice to the president when he wants" and "maybe sometimes when he doesn’t want it.”
Two world leaders who have had close relationships with Trump spoke with Biden and congratulated him on winning the election. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Biden had a "warm conversation" and "agreed to meet in the near future," a representative of Netanyahu's office said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hosted a celebration for Trump in February, tweeted that he'd also spoken with Biden. Modi again offered congratulations to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is of South Asian American descent, and said her "success is a matter of great pride and inspiration for members of the vibrant Indian American community."
Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of Trump, sources have told NBC News.
Harris made an appearance on Capitol Hill, where she was asked about Trump declaring himself the winner of the election. "I think that we want to make sure that we are all focused on the priorities of the moment and the day which includes addressing one of the major crises that we have faced as a country which is Covid and everything that has resulted from it and that the American people want leaders that respect our democracy and our democratic process," she answered.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani took center stage at a hearing Tuesday on the Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Pennsylvania officials from certifying the vote results, and baselessly alleged "widespread national voter fraud."
Separately, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign’s claim that Philadelphia violated state election law in the way it handled observers at a city ballot counting center.
AP reports that the head of the GSA consulted with Dave Barram, who held her job during the 2000 presidential election, about the ascertainment process to kick-start the transition.
Two members of an elections board in the Michigan's Wayne County, which Detroit is part of, had initially refused to certify the election results before reversing course a short time later. The second vote was unanimous to certify the results and came as Trump tweeted falsehoods about the situation.
The GSA's holdup means Biden can't receive any official briefings on the pandemic from government officials.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Monday that the formal transition to the incoming Biden administration will be key to the quick distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, and made the point again at The New York Times’ Dealbook Online Summit on Tuesday.
“Transitions are extremely important to the smooth continuity of whatever you’re doing,” Fauci said, adding, “If you want to have good continuity, which will mean maximal attack on infections, hospitalizations, death, you want to have the continuity.”
Members of Biden's coronavirus advisory committee also warned at a news conference Tuesday that without communication and full coordination with the Trump administration, the incoming Biden administration will face significant challenges in distributing the vaccines, ramping up rapid testing and shoring up necessary personal protective equipment.
A lack of preparedness could also cost the Biden administration public confidence if the response doesn't go right from the start, one of the committee's leaders, former Food and Drug Administrator Dr. David Kessler, said. He added that Biden's advisers were setting up their own recommendations for vaccine distribution in the face of inaction by the GSA.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans on Monday continued to acknowledge the importance of the transition period.
"It's absolutely imperative for public health that all of the planning that's gone on — for which the current administration deserves credit — be shared with the new administration," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who won a competitive re-election race earlier this month, said.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told reporters on Capitol Hill, "It's reasonable for the vice president to be given security briefings. I don't see any harm at all, and actually a lot of help."