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UC Berkeley Infectious Disease Expert Lauds Planned Biden Virus Task Force

MILL VALLEY (KPIX) -- When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in to office in January, he will be facing a list of difficult problems -- none more pressing than COVID-19, which has now claimed more than 237,000 American lives.

In his address to the nation Saturday night, Biden made it clear what "Job One" will be. On Monday, he will name an advisory panel to create a national plan for dealing with the pandemic.

"That plan will be built on bedrock science," Biden said. "It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I will spare no effort -- none ... to turn around this pandemic."

That plan has been a long time coming, according to Dr. Jon Swartzberg, professor emeritus with UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, division of infectious diseases.

"When we look back at what the Trump administration did in terms of combating this pandemic, I think everyone will admit it was an utter failure," he said.

Dr. Swartzberg said the most important thing President Biden can do is rebuild trust in the messaging over the virus. He says that will start at the National Centers for Disease Control.

"Trump politicized the CDC," Dr. Swartzberg said. "Decisions that were coming out of the CDC -- that have come out of the CDC -- were not what scientists at the CDC wanted to say."

He said the conflicting and unsound messages coming from the federal government have left local officials to make their own rules with varying results.

"Unlike with the Trump administration ... where there was a political agenda, the agenda that Biden's going to have is 'how can we stop this pandemic?'" said Dr. Swartzberg. "After all, if we can't stop this pandemic, we can't really get back to a normal way of life."

He said once information coming from federal officials is considered trustworthy, a national strategy for controlling the pandemic can be created. It's unclear how much power the president can have in ordering Americans to wear face masks but Dr Swartzberg said it never should have come to that.

"This whole thing about politicizing masks has been absolutely absurd," he said. "A few years from now people are going to look back at this and say, 'what were they doing in America during the pandemic?' they were fighting about masks, of all things!"

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