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Biden delivers remarks on COVID-19 as Trump presses legal challenges

Earlier Monday, Biden announced members of a 13-person advisory board to help shape his response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, lawyers for President Trump, who has refused to concede the election, plan to press ahead with legal challenges alleging irregularities in several states where Biden leads in the vote count, including Pennsylvania. With no evidence, Trump has contended that widespread fraud cost him the election.

Geoff Duncan, the Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, said Monday that his office has seen no “credible examples” of widespread voter fraud in his state, which is among those in which Biden holds a narrow lead and Trump alleges cheating.

Appearing on CNN, Duncan said his office has been in close contact with Georgia’s secretary of state and attorney general.

“We’ve not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet, and so we’ll continue … to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there, but at this point we’ve not seen any sort of credible examples,” he said.

“If there’s an issue out there, we want to make sure we understand it, investigate it, and be able to make sure that we’re able to rectify it,” Duncan added.

Pressed by anchor John Berman as to whether he’s seen anything of that sort yet, Duncan said he has not.

“At this point, we’ve not seen any sort of credible examples,” he said.

Vice President Pence on Monday credited Operation Warp Speed for the announcement by drugmaker Pfizer that an analysis of its coronavirus vaccine trial suggested it was highly effective in preventing covid-19, even though Pfizer did not join the Trump administration initiative.

“Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump, @pfizer announced its Coronavirus Vaccine trial is EFFECTIVE, preventing infection in 90% of its volunteers,” tweeted Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force and has maintained a low profile since the election.

Pfizer, unlike its competitors, did not join Operation Warp Speed, the government initiative designed to erase the financial risk of vaccine and therapeutics development by providing funding to companies and helping coordinate the trials. Instead, Pfizer plowed $2 billion of its own money into the project, a partnership with German biotech firm BioNTech, and then struck a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses, contingent on the vaccine’s effectiveness.

In an interview with the New York Times, Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president at Pfizer and head of its vaccine research and development, sought to distance the company from the initiative and presidential politics.

“We were never part of the Warp Speed,” she said. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”

Earlier Monday, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, questioned the timing of Pfizer’s announcement, suggesting it was withheld until after the election to benefit Biden.

“The timing of this is pretty amazing,” he tweeted. “Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”

Paige Winfield Cunningham opines that hitting rewind will be Biden’s chief way of acting on health-care policy — at least for the next two years.

Biden appointees in the White House and federal health agencies are expected to unwind dozens of Trump administration regulations on Obamacare, Medicaid and abortion rights, turning back the page four years ago to the Obama administration’s vision of how government health programs should be run.

Regulatory actions and executive orders will be their chief pathway.

Biden characterized news about a promising coronavirus vaccine as “excellent” but cautioned Monday that “the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away” and urged Americans to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions.

In a statement, Biden said his health advisers were informed Sunday night of the news that a vaccine developed by drug giant Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech was more than 90 percent effective at protecting people compared with a placebo saline shot.

“I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope,” Biden said in a statement. “At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”

Biden said that even if a vaccine is approved later this month and some Americans are vaccinated by the end of the year, “it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.”

“This is why the head of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine,” Biden said. “Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year.”

Biden predicted that the number of cases “will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions.”

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