Doctors say they’re ‘hopeful’ Biden will handle the pandemic better, but ‘disappointed’ that he didn’t win by a landslide

  • Three doctors spoke to Insider about the projection that Joe Biden has won the US presidential election, and will be spearheading the country's coronavirus response as of 2021. 
  • They were all hopeful that Biden will have science-led approach to the coronavirus that will be "less stressful for healthcare providers."
  • But some are disheartened that the country's poor handling of COVID-19 did not drive more voters to vote for Biden over President Trump. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Doctors told Insider they are "not surprised, just disappointed" that Joe Biden didn't win the US presidential election by a landslide given the Trump administration's poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to almost 227,000 deaths.

While it's hard to predict how president-elect Biden would have handled, and will handle, the country's response to the novel coronavirus, the medical community has made it clear they believe he would have handled it better. 

Medical journals and physician groups broke their non-partisan norms to strongly endorse Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, who promised to "listen to the scientists" in their campaign.

On Friday, after Decision Desk HQ and Insider projected Biden and Harris to win the election, doctors told Insider they were heartened, and had higher hopes for the US as we enter the second year of the pandemic. 

But they were also processing the apparently close election, with more support for Trump than expected, even though many public health researchers have identified the president as one of the fundamental reasons that the US has lost so many lives compared to other developed countries.

Many polls suggested a landslide for Biden, in part due to Trump's handling of the pandemic

This year's vote-count for the presidential election was always projected to be a long, dragged-out process given the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. 

However, polls suggested that Biden would, ultimately, win by a solid margin; that Trump would have an early lead from in-person voting, and the majority Democrat absentee ballots would quickly swing the pendulum the other way. 

That turned out not to be the case. 

"Am I shocked that it was that tight? No. Am I disappointed? Yes," Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, a pulmonary physician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, told Insider. 

"I would hope that, whether you're a Republican or not, there's definitely things that unite us all. We don't want American lives to be lost. And we've had a lot of lives lost. Knowing that is a stain on a person's leadership, I was hoping that would be enough to unite."

High hopes for Biden

It's hard to say whether a new administration can really turn the tide for the US, Fahmi Farah, MD, a cardiologist at Baylor Scott & White in Fort Worth, Texas, told Insider.

"The way the pandemic was handled by the current administration was poor. It could have saved a lot more lives and been a lot less stressful for front-line healthcare workers," Farah said.

Farah isn't relaxing just yet. 

"We have some experience with Joe Biden because he was the vice president before, but we did not deal with something of this degree that affected the whole world."

COVID-19, Farah said, "is something completely different that caught the world by surprise, especially in the beginning, for example leaving healthcare providers without protective equipment. Whether that part could have been handled differently, I don't know. I want to say yes. I hope so."

Galiatsatos, on the other hand, is optimistic. "I am hopeful. I really am," he told Insider.

Biden "always seemed to be a champion for science," he said, pointing to the former vice president's Cancer Moonshot program, a national effort to advance cancer research and treatment, devised in honor of his late son, Beau, who died in 2015 from a brain tumor.

His hope is that Biden's messaging alone will trigger a shift in the way the entire country organizes to control the virus and support healthcare workers.

"I do think we'll be able to get back to that basis. I think it starts at the top, with the President of the United States, and that voice from him or her will continue resonating in a trickle down effect," he said.

What doctors expect to see from Biden in the second year of the pandemic

On January 21, 2021, the day after president-elect Biden is inaugurated, it will be exactly one year since the US confirmed its first case of COVID-19. 

The consensus among public health experts is that the pandemic will persist until there is a vaccine widely available to the general public, which likely will not be before the end of 2021 at the earliest. 

As such, it will be up to Biden and Harris to dictate how the US approaches its second year of the pandemic. 

Dr. Jan K Carney, MD, associate dean for public health and health policy at the University of Vermont, told Insider she expects to see strong messaging and clearer oversight over everything from vaccines to preventing infections.

"We will see support for science and public health. I think we will see careful consideration and use of the best science we have. There will be more consistent messaging about what steps people can take to protect themselves and their families and why," Carney said.

Perhaps more importantly, Carney expects to see Biden preparing for the inevitable: another pandemic.

"It is challenging to think of our overall level of preparedness and the strength of our public health system during the middle of a pandemic, but it seems clear that we must strengthen both."

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