President-elect Joe Biden has announced who will join his administration as key members of the health team tasked with addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 280,000 Americans to date.
The individuals joining the upcoming administration include Xavier Becerra, the Attorney General of California, who has a history of championing improvements to health care access. Becerra helped pass the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress and would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services if he is confirmed.
Biden has also nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as the next Surgeon General. He previously served in that same position between 2014 and 2017 as a member of the Obama administration. He is currently the co-chair of the president-elect’s Covid-19 Advisory Board.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky has also been nominated to serve as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A noted expert on virus testing, prevention, and treatment, Walensky is the current Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The position of COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair will be held by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who specializes in addressing health care disparities within the United States, particularly as the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the working class and people of color. She is presently the Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine. She is also the founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center and co-chair of the President-elect’s COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading coronavirus expert, has accepted an appointment as Chief Medical Adviser on COVID-19 to the President and continue in his role as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Dr. Fauci will remain an essential voice both in informing the public about health risks and safety measures and in helping the scientific community, the Biden-Harris administration, and local officials overcome the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release.
Biden has also selected Jeff Zients, a businessman and former government official who earned acclaim during the Obama administration for leading the “tech surge” to repair healthcare.gov following an error-plagued rollout, to serve as Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President, where he will “advise the president-elect on the implementation of the federal government’s COVID response, including managing safe and equitable vaccine distribution, the pandemic supply chain, and coordination across federal agencies and state and local governments.”
Finally, Biden has appointed former White House and Pentagon senior advisor Natalie Quillan to serve as the administration’s Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. Quillan was a key voice in the Obama administration’s work to address the opioid crisis.
“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in a press release. “This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on day one to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking, oversee the safe, equitable, and free distribution of treatments and vaccines, re-open schools and businesses safely, lower prescription drug and other health costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans, and rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also weighed in, saying that addressing the pandemic and its economic fallout will require “listening to experts and leaders like the ones we are bringing together on this health care team. “
The individuals selected represent “some of America’s top physicians, public health experts, and crisis-tested public servants, and they reflect the very best of our nation,” she observed. “This is the team that the American people need and deserve to make quality, affordable health care available to all and to help make sure safe and effective vaccines — as well as testing and treatment — are free and equitably distributed. President-elect Biden and I will work closely with this team to marshal the full resources and capabilities of the United States of America to save lives, contain this pandemic, and build better preparedness for future pandemics and other health threats.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.