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Biden asks Fauci to stay on, will call on Americans to wear masks for 100 days

Fauci said he participated in a "very productive Zoom meeting" with Biden's team.
Image: President-elect Joe Biden, arrives with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris at The Queen Theater in Wilmington
President-elect Joe Biden arrives with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci formally met with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team for the first time Thursday to discuss the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, said he participated in a "very productive Zoom meeting" with Biden's team, which lasted for an hour. Fauci said they discussed "a variety of Covid-related topics." A senior transition official said Jeff Zients, who's expected to be the new administration's Covid-19 czar, led the discussion for the Biden team.

Biden later told CNN in an interview that he asked Fauci to stay on as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and also to serve as a chief medical adviser. Fauci had told NBC News on Thursday that he would stay in his current role and work closely with the new administration.

Biden told CNN that he'd be "happy" to get publicly vaccinated if Fauci says it is safe. He also said that when he is inaugurated, he will ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days.

"It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks, but beyond that, where the federal government has authority, I'm going to issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked," he said.

He added: "Just 100 days to mask. Not forever. One hundred days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction ... if that occurs, with vaccinations and masking, to drive down the numbers considerably."

In an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" before the virtual meeting, Fauci said he has talked informally with members of Biden's team, including Zients, to coordinate the response to the pandemic. He said he would be "talking about just substantive, uncomplicated transition issues like vaccines and the state of the epidemic" with the new administration.

Fauci said that he has spoken previously with Biden's White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, but that the meeting Thursday with the transition "landing team," which is working on priorities for the early months of the Biden presidency, marked a more formal and substantive process.

Fauci said it will likely be the first of a series of transition meetings. He also said he fully expects to remain as director of the infectious diseases institute.

"What contribution I will make in the new administration depends on the new administration," Fauci said. "But I cannot imagine I'm not going to be involved in the Covid-19 response. I mean, that would, I think, be unheard of if that's the case. But we'll see."

The White House task force response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, also started her formal contact with the Biden transition team this week.

Meanwhile, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were receiving the presidential daily briefing and meeting with transition team advisers Thursday. No public events were on their schedules.

  • Biden said in his CNN interview that he doesn't personally care whether President Donald Trump attends his inauguration but that the outgoing president should present a peaceful transfer of power to the world. "It's totally his decision, and it's of no personal consequence to me, but it is to the country," Biden said. "I really worry about the image we're presenting to the rest of the world."
  • Biden announced that Brian Deese, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, will be director of the National Economic Council. Deese, a former deputy director of the council and the Office of Management and Budget, was part of the Obama administration team that worked on environmental issues and the bailout of the auto industry.
  • Biden could announce his health team as soon as next week, a transition official said, including his picks to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the new administration's response to the pandemic. Obama administration Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is a leading contender for HHS secretary, while Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo took herself out of the running Thursday.
  • Obama and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will headline a get-out-the-vote virtual rally Friday for the state's Democratic Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The event will include a discussion with volunteers ahead of the state's voter registration deadline Monday and the start of in-person early voting on Dec. 14.
  • Harris announced more senior staff appointments Thursday, including her chief of staff, Hartina Flournoy, who has served as former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff. Rohini Kosoglu, who will be a domestic policy adviser, has been with Harris since her days in the Senate, serving as her chief of staff. Nancy McEldowney, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service, will be Harris' national security adviser.
  • Trump has not ruled out firing Attorney General William Barr, according to an administration official and two people familiar with the matter, who said a sudden departure is not seen as imminent. Trump publicly lashed out at Barr during a White House event Thursday, telling reporters, "He hasn't done anything."
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected an emergency lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, which sought to invalidate mailed ballots that it claimed were improperly included during the canvass in Milwaukee and Dane counties.
  • White House communications director Alyssa Farah announced that she is leaving the job.

Trump had no public events on his schedule. He presented the Medal of Freedom to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz on Thursday and was expected to sign legislation to modernize information technology at the federal level, as well as an executive order promoting the use of artificial intelligence in government.