Joe Biden makes picks for key public health roles as pandemic rages: sources
Joe Biden makes picks for key public health roles as pandemic rages: sources

President-elect Joe Biden made his selections for two key positions in public health, sources said on Sunday as he prepares to take office next month as the coronavirus pandemic rages at new levels across the United States.

Biden plans to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services, two sources said, placing the Latino former congressman in a critical role in the fight against the pandemic.

The former vice president is also expected to nominate Rochelle Walensky, Chief of Infectious Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, to run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the person familiar with the decision.

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The choice of Becerra, 62, who was also considered a candidate for U.S. Attorney General, came as Biden was under greater pressure to add diversity to his cabinet appointments, including complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about the lack of Latinos.

More than 281,000 Americans died of the disease of Covid-19, according to the Reuters report.

The announcement of Becerra’s choice could come as soon as Monday, said one of the sources familiar with the decision. Biden named some of the top health team members last week and the full team is expected to roll out this week.

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“Biden lives up to his commitment to make the Cabinet reflect diversity,” said Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach, California, and a long-standing ally of Becerra and Biden.

Garcia said Becerra “has a strong health record, but I think it goes beyond that. The President-elect has chosen someone with the highest level of integrity and intellect.”

In Congress, Becerra played a key role in passing the Affordable Care Act-the key domestic policy achievement of former President Barack Obama. In his current role, Becerra leads the coalition of 20 states defending a programme better known as Obamacare, including the Supreme Court last month.

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Biden asked Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the Coronavirus Task Force of President Donald Trump, to remain Chief Medical Advisor.

The Democratic President-elect also named Jeff Zients, an economic adviser to his managerial skills, a coronavirus “czar” to oversee an unprecedented operation to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine, coordinating efforts across multiple federal agencies.

Biden chose Vivek Murthy, a physician, and former surgeon general who has gained prominence in recent months as co-chairman of Biden’s Pandemic Advisory Board, to return as a surgeon general for a second time.

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Becerra served as a U.S. Democratic Representative from 1993 to 2017 before moving back to his home state to become Attorney General. He succeeded Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris in that position.