WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) — White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci will meet with President-elect Joe Biden's team on Thursday for his first substantive talks with the new administration about how to combat the virus that has killed some 273,000 Americans.
Fauci, the top U.S. government infectious diseases expert, told CBS News he expected to have a comprehensive discussion with members of Biden's team who are working to establish priorities in addressing the pandemic and ensure a smooth transition on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Although he has spoken with Biden's White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain several times, the discussions were not substantive, Fauci said.
"I'm going to be meeting with them today, by Zoom, virtually. So today will be the first day where there will be substantive discussions about the transition between me and the Biden team," he said. "I'm very pleased that today we're having the first discussion about a number of things, vaccinations and things like that."
Fauci told CBS he wished the transition process had begun sooner. Outgoing President Donald Trump, a Republican, is contesting the results of the Nov. 3 election and his administration only gave the go-ahead for the transition to begin on Nov. 23.
As director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has been the most high-profile member of the White House task force since the pandemic began, often disagreeing with Trump on how to combat the virus.
U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approaches. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.
With Pfizer's vaccine already approved by regulatory authorities in Britain, hopes of a respite in the United States are resting on the start of widespread vaccinations as early as this month.
Spokesmen for Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Fauci meeting.
Biden is considering tapping businessman Jeff Zients as his coronavirus "czar," according to an ally briefed on the Democrat's thinking. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. surgeon general who has been one of Biden's top coronavirus advisers, is also thought to be in the running.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Franklin Paul and Alistair Bell)