Following the weekend’s news that Joe Biden is now president-elect of the U.S., plenty of focus is shifting to his plan for COVID-19.
While positive news regarding Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate came through this morning, the pandemic is still roaring on, with the U.S. hitting a record 128,000 new cases on Saturday as the nation’s total case count has topped 10 million, according to The Washington Post.
President-elect Biden today unveiled the beginning steps to his plan for combatting the virus, including the appointment of a 12-person coronavirus advisory board, which is being headed up by former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy, former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. Dr. Luciana Borio, Rick Bright, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Dr. Atul Gawande, Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. Julie Morita, Michael Osterholm, Loyce Pace, Dr. Robert Rodriguez and Dr. Eric Goosby round out the board.
In a briefing for his COVID-19 plan today, Biden said, “The single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of Covid is wear a mask. The head of the CDC warned this fall & for the foreseeable future, a mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus… Do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement.”
His proposed plan calls for increasing the country’s capacity to produce personal protective equipment, such as masks and other vital products, by using the Defense Production Act, which President Trump enacted in the spring, mainly to increase ventilator production for the first virus surge. It was used shortly after that to increase N95 mask production.
MassMEDIC president Brian Johnson told Medical Design & Outsourcing via email that the industry council recognizes the results of the election and looks forward to working with the Biden administration as both parties seek to improve access to healthcare and combat COVID-19.
“In regards to the pandemic, it’s clear we need to greatly expand access to rapid testing and institute a national mask mandate,” Johnson said. “It is the only way to reduce the spread of COVID and is a key in the fight against the pandemic.”
Medical Alley Association president & CEO Shaye Mandle told MDO that the organization believes two things that the incoming Biden administration should focus on is the medical/healthcare supply chain and the successes of certain changes in the industry during the pandemic.
Mandle said there will be a conversation about the supply chain “holes and gaps exposed during COVID-19,” and he hopes the opportunity will be used to revitalize it. Meanwhile, changes caused by the pandemic, such as shifts to telehealth, as well as updates to regulatory processes (like emergency use authorization) and reimbursement have offered signs of an effective path forward, rather than a temporary fix before a return to the previous norms.
“We want the administration to look at how successful changes to the regulatory and reimbursement processes have been,” Mandle said. “We don’t want to go back.”
On Biden’s website, he outlines his plan for taking on the virus, including the placement of scientists and public health leaders in communication with the American people to stop misinformation, putting decision-making in the hands of public health professionals and not politicians, and restoring the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, a council established by the Obama-Biden administration and eliminated by the Trump administration two years ago.
Other parts of the plan include free and widespread testing, temporary hospitals to combat virus surges in hotspots and eliminating cost barriers for testing, treatment, preventative services and an eventual vaccine. Biden is also floating the notion of economic relief, particularly for small businesses and those hit hardest by the virus.
With the medtech industry will be heavily involved in whatever comes next, between manufacturing, research & development and more, many organizations will be interested to hear what the President-elect says is on the horizon.
AdvaMed president & CEO Scott Whitaker wrote in a LinkedIn post before the election was called in favor of Biden that the work on the pandemic can’t be put on pause because of politics.
Whitaker is advocating for a bipartisan response with pro-growth economic policy to stabilize small and startup medtech companies that have suffered from the pandemic-induced economic downturn. Additionally, he is pushing for a move to make small changes to Medicare payment systems to bolster supply chains and allow healthcare facilities to purchase much-needed technologies.
Finally, Whitaker pleaded for Washington to help the medtech industry build up its diagnostics infrastructure for not only the current pandemic, but the next one, so that a stockpile with diagnostic instruments, reagents, tests, swabs, transport media and pipettes is available.
“Clearly, there’s a lot to be done,” Whitaker wrote. “Or, to put it another way, there’s a lot we must do. AdvaMed stands ready to help drive action for the member companies we serve, but more importantly, for the American patients who demand – and deserve – quality health care.”
Medical Design & Outsourcing reached out to AdvaMed and Get Us PPE for comment related to this story, but they did not immediately respond. This story may be updated.