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Biden Names Health Secretary, COVID Czar, Other Key Members To Health Team

President-elect Joe Biden has picked Xavier Becerra, shown here in a 2018 file photo, as his nominee for health and human services secretary.
President-elect Joe Biden has picked Xavier Becerra, shown here in a 2018 file photo, as his nominee for health and human services secretary.

President-elect Joe Biden has said that addressing the coronavirus pandemic is his top priority. Here are some of the people he is putting in charge of that big task.

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the team he would like to lead his response to the nation's greatest public health crisis in a century once he takes office in January.

Biden said in a statement that he will nominate Xavier Becerra to lead the sprawling Health and Human Services Department. Becerra is California's attorney general and has led prominent legal fights against President Trump's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Becerra would be the first Latino to lead HHS, the Biden transition team said in a statement.

Biden said he would nominate Dr. Rochelle Walensky as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky is chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School professor.

Biden selected Jeff Zients to be the White House coordinator of the coronavirus response, a point person for efforts by agencies and state and local governments on vaccine distribution and supply chain issues. Zients, a veteran of the Obama administration with extensive business ties, is known for having spearheaded the work to fix the healthcare.gov website used to sign up for Obamacare after its disastrous rollout in 2013.

Biden also said he would nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general. Murthy has been a key coronavirus adviser to Biden, regularly briefing him on the pandemic during his campaign and the transition. Murthy was surgeon general during the Obama administration.

Murthy faced pushback when Obama nominated him for the job after the National Rifle Association raised alarms about his support for an assault weapons ban. In his confirmation hearing, when asked about this, Murthy insisted he intended to use his platform as surgeon general not to push for gun control but to draw attention to obesity prevention.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine, will lead a new task force aimed at reducing disparities in response, care and treatment for COVID-19, the Biden team said.

The appointments help round out Biden's team charged with addressing the pressing COVID-19 crisis. On Thursday, Biden announced that Dr. Anthony Fauci would continue his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while also serving as his chief medical adviser on COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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