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‘We Will Get Through This’: Former Gov. Leavitt On Case Surge & Vaccine Arrival

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who also served as Health and Human Services secretary during the George W. Bush Administration. (KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Practicing health guidelines over the winter months will be pivotal to saving lives as we await the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who also served as Health and Human Services secretary during the George W. Bush Administration.

“I actually think we need ought to be quite hopeful and optimistic,” Leavitt said. “We will get through this, but we have to get through the next few months.”

Leavitt said he expects the surge in cases to most likely continue with the colder weather and people spending time indoors.

“There’s also extraordinarily good reasons for us to take the precautions that are necessary to avoid contact with the virus for us or for other people we love,” Leavitt said.

Vaccine Distribution

While he expects some logistical problems, Levitt predicts the COVID-19 vaccine distribution to be efficient.

“We’ll look back on this as one of the truly great scientific achievements of this century,” Leavitt said.

Because of the lessons learned during this emergency vaccine development, Leavitt said the way we approach vaccine making will be forever changed — although not all vaccines will require the same rapid timetable.

“I intend to take the vaccine the moment that it is appropriate for my situation to be offered the vaccine,” he said. “I’ll be there because I’m confident it is safe.”

Leavitt said the vaccine development didn’t just happen because of the government. He said private sector organizations were also devoted to the endeavor.

“Those involved really deserve our credit, respect and appreciation,” he said.

The vaccine comes at a time of presidential transition and Leavitt said he was glad to see that President-elect Joe Biden asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to continue his role as chief medical adviser.

”President-elect Biden, though in a different party, I must say he is organizing a very well-thought-out transition,” Leavitt said. “He’s bringing in people who have vast experience and I think the government will benefit from that.”

Presidential Transition

The quick, 75 days of a presidential transition is something Leavitt knows a lot about after creating the plan for then-candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

The process starts in the spring, and by Election Day, the candidates have substantial teams in place, Leavitt explained, reminding that at the end of each election cycle, someone gets disappointed.

“We built a great ship but it never got to sail,” Leavitt said of his work with the Romney transition committee. “But the reality is that’s the nature of transition planning.”

Leavitt now serves on the advisory board for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, which was created using the documents and framework he helped develop for Romney.

“Until 2010, presidential transitions were very informal,” Leavitt explained. “In fact, to a large degree, they took place in secret because candidates were worried that if they were seen as preparing to transition that it looked as though it was presumptuous and that their opponent would clearly attack them because they were measuring for drapes in the Oval Office.”

The result of that was that was very little done in advance of Election Day and little was written about what should be done, Leavitt said. Now it’s an obligation, by law, of a candidate to begin a transition process.

”It’s so important because it’s a big job to be able to put a team on the field, organize a cabinet, create the White House and 4,000 other positions that need to be filled,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt has been involved in all presidential transitions since 2012 and is confident with the current shift of power taking place.

“I am briefed with some regularity on their progress and I’m happy that now the Trump team and the Biden team are working together,” Leavitt said. “They have people actually working in the same room.”

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