Biden names pandemic official to new national security team

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to add a senior official overseeing global health security as he remakes the White House National Security Council, restoring a government function cut by the Trump administration before the COVID-19 pandemic, his office said in a statement on Friday.

Biden had spent much of the 2020 presidential campaign arguing that a decision by President Donald Trump’s team to disband a group focused on biodefense left the country unprepared for the novel coronavirus.

Elizabeth Cameron, a biologist who led the pandemic group before it was disbanded, will return to serve as senior director for the team as Biden prepares a strategy he hopes will reduce death and illness from a pandemic that continues to besiege the United States, the statement said.

Vaccines have been slow to make their way to the public, doing little to stop a rise in infections, with over 4,000 Americans dying for a second straight day on Thursday.

Biden will make broader national security changes, too, with his team installing an official with a broad mandate over Russia policy as well as a senior director for climate and energy. The Democrat has vowed to take a tougher approach to both Russia and climate change than his Republican predecessor.

The biodefense group was started by Trump predecessor Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president, to prevent pandemics.

The Trump administration disbanded the team and merged some of its members into other units in a move it said was intended to reduce organizational complexity.

Trump’s current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, is among the officials who, according to sources, have considered resigning after Trump supporters occupied the U.S. Capitol in an effort to block Congress from certifying the presidential election results.

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