U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks to reporters about efforts to confront the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic after meeting with members of his "Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board" in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov.  9, 2020.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks to reporters about efforts to confront the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic after meeting with members of his "Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board" in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 9, 2020.

WASHINGTON - As coronavirus infections surge in the U.S., infectious disease health experts said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden has kept them from handing off key information to the incoming Biden officials to help curb the pandemic.

One of Biden’s COVID-19 advisers, Dr. Atul Gawande, told ABC’s “This Week” show, "It is in the nation's interest that the transition team get the threat assessments ... understand the vaccine distribution plans, you need to know where the stockpiles are, what status is of masks and gloves."

Coronavirus Surges in US While Biden Team Waits for Trump Administration to Begin Transition

He added, "There's a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. It can't wait to the last minute."

Trump has refused to concede his defeat while he pursues long-shot legal claims that the November 3 vote was rigged against him and he has blocked his administration from cooperating with Biden’s transition team throughout government agencies.

The country’s top infectious disease expert. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a fixture on Trump’s coronavirus task force, told CNN, "Of course it would be better if we could start working with them.”

FILE - Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19, Sept. 23, 2020.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he has been through political transitions involving six presidencies.

Fauci said, “It’s very clear that the transition process that we go through ... is really important in a smooth handing over of the information.”

“It's almost like passing the baton in a race,” he said. “You don't want to stop and then give it to somebody; you want to essentially keep going."  

In recent days, the U.S. has recorded as many as 184,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, according to Johns Hopkins University, with surging counts in numerous states across the country. More than 245,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and more than 10.9 million infected, with both figures more than in any other country.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. was one of the key issues in the election, with national polls showing that voters trusted Biden more than Trump to deal with the pandemic.

Fauci and another coronavirus official, Admiral Brett Giroir of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, both said that it has been "several months" since Trump met with the White House coronavirus task force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence.  

Fauci said that with the expected approval of a coronavirus vaccine expected in the coming weeks, he thinks the U.S. could start getting back to "relative normal" by April or July next year.

Drugmaker Pfizer announced last week that tests of its vaccine show it is more than 90% effective.

Trump said Friday that at least 20 million vaccine doses could be ready as early as December, with an additional 25 million to 30 million doses available in each subsequent month.

"That's great,” Fauci said, “but we have to get people to take the vaccine.

"So, if we get the overwhelming majority of people taking the vaccine, and you have on the one hand an effective vaccine, on the other hand, a high degree of uptake of the vaccine, we could start getting things back to relative normal as we get into the second and third quarter of (2021), where people can start thinking about doing things that were too dangerous just months ago," Fauci said.  

Giroir called news of the possible eventual success of the Pfizer vaccine a "game changer," but that the surge in the number of new cases still leaves the country in a critical situation and the lack of a transition from the Trump administration to Biden’s troubling.

"I want to be as transparent as possible with everybody; this is not a political issue," he said. "This is an issue of public health and saving American lives. And I think there's nothing more important than that."

What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.