President-elect Joe Biden is moving quickly and taking care of business.
He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, after last week's briefing on the novel coronavirus, on Monday morning named a new 13-person COVID-19 task force and advisory board made up of physicians and health experts. The group will help shape the Biden/Harris response to the pandemic, which has now surpassed 10 million cases and nearly 238,000 deaths in the United States.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump still refuses to concede defeat in the Nov. 3 election. Instead, he and his administration continue to push frivolous lawsuits to challenge the election without evidence. Even Georgia's Trump-supporting Republican election officials have pushed back on the president's allegations of widespread fraud, warning that a recount will not fundamentally change the voting results.
What's more, Trump's appointed General Services Administration administrator Emily Murphy is refusing to sign a letter allowing Biden's transition team to formally begin its work this week. It is just one more broken norm and one more sign that Trump intends — at least for now — to making every effort to disrupt an orderly transfer of power.
But Biden's decades of experience with running a government show that he will not be slowed.
It doesn't matter that Trump has not extended to the president-elect a tour of the White House. Biden knows his way around that house quite well already. What's more, he clearly knows his way around Washington and government quite well — better, in fact, than Trump ever could.
So while Trump makes noises about going back on the rally trail — for what? To stir revolution? — Biden and America move on.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that their coronavirus vaccine candidate is 90% effective. That's fantastic news, and it is echoed by National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, who said after hearing the Pfizer announcement that he thinks the findings bode well for a vaccine being developed by biotech firm Moderna and the institute. That second vaccine trial uses a similar technology, "which gives you hope we might even have two vaccines," Fauci said.
But there still must be more testing before any vaccines can be cleared for public use and distribution, researchers and Biden warned.
"Today's news does not change this urgent reality," Biden said. "Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. ... There's a need for bold action to fight this pandemic. We're still facing a very dark winter."
Still, the vaccine news, combined with Biden's win over the weekend and his quick start to appoint a COVID-19 task force, gave the stock market a decided boost, showing that investors — like many of the rest of us — are ignoring the president's drama and poor-loser attitude. The Dow Jones industrial average spiked nearly 1,600 points, or 5.6 percent, at its opening bell Monday.
"While the threat of legal action by Trump could delay proceedings, investors are pricing in almost zero chance for the incumbent to destabilize affairs" Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, wrote in comments emailed to The Washington Post on Monday. "That means the market is in risk-on mood."
Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tweeted about the vaccine news, as if to take credit for it. Pence wrote: "HUGE NEWS: Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump ... ."
Oh, but wait. It wasn't "thanks" to @realDonaldTrump.
"We were never part of the Warp Speed," Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president and the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, told The New York Times. "We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone" to accelerate the development and distribution of a vaccine.
Indeed, in September Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CBS News that the company was taking somewhat of a risk by not taking taxpayer money to help with vaccine development, because, as she said, "I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy."
The next time we heard from Trump — perhaps starved for a headline bearing his name — came almost five hours later, when in a tweet he fired Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Speaking of Trump stirring revolution, Esper's sin, committed last June, was to distance himself from the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Washington for a Trump photo op and then disagreeing publicly with Trump's threat to use the Insurrection Act and send active-duty military troops to control constitutionally protected protests in other American cities.
We also learned Monday that Trump's Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is the newest Trump team member to test positive for COVID-19. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, attended an election night party where White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and nearly every other attendee was not wearing a mask. Meadows and four others in Trump's orbit subsequently tested positive last week.
Yes, that is the same Mark Meadows who told CNN last month: "We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas."
As of today, there are 72 crucial days until the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20.