Biden names Iowa native Michael Osterholm to coronavirus task force

A leading infectious disease expert and native of Waukon, Iowa, Osterholm will help advise the Biden transition team on COVID-19 policy.



Michael Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. (Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

President-elect Joe Biden announced a slate of scientists and health experts to guide his coronavirus policy on Monday, including Iowa native Michael Osterholm.

Osterholm is McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Born in Waukon, Iowa, Osterholm graduated from Luther College in Decorah. He received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota and has an honorary doctorate from Luther College. He currently serves on the Board of Regents at Luther College.

Osterholm has spent his career studying infectious diseases, and has been sounding the alarms about the potential for a pandemic since long before the coronavirus appeared. His 2017 book, “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” explored the potential for a pandemic and provided a blueprint for how to address it and other public health threats.

He has served as a Science Envoy for Health Security in the State Department and worked in the Minnesota Department of Health, according to a Biden transition press release on Monday.

Osterholm has been a sober voice of warning throughout the pandemic, offering expertise in news reports and TV broadcasts, and hosting his own podcast on COVID-19 titled “The Osterholm Update.” On Monday, Osterholm told CNBC that the U.S. was about to enter “COVID hell.”

Osterholm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The COVID-19 advisory board is composed of 13 public health experts and co-chaired by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler; former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale University Marcella Nunez-Smith. The group will advise Biden’s transition team and COVID-19 staff.

“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” Biden said in a statement Monday.