Biden Introduces Top Health Care Officials as US COVID Cases Soar

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is introducing his top health care officials on Tuesday, all of whom will quickly face the country’s grim world-leading coronavirus statistics: nearly 15 million infections and more than 283,000 deaths.Biden, FILE – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, California, March 5, 2019.Outgoing President Donald Trump, defeated for re-election by Biden in last month’s national vote, is delivering remarks at Tuesday’s Operation Warp Speed summit on the government’s effort to produce several vaccines against the coronavirus.Although Biden has promised to get inoculated when a vaccine is approved as safe, polls show about four in 10 Americans are wary of getting the shots or will refuse to be vaccinated.In this file photo, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during an unscheduled briefing after a Coronavirus Task Force meeting at the White House on April 5, 2020, in Washington.Biden picked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, as his chief medical adviser on COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. Fauci will also continue in his longtime role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.Fauci, 79, has served as a medical adviser to six U.S. presidents and for months was the face of the U.S. government’s response to the pandemic. But in the months before the presidential election, Trump grew increasingly angered at Fauci’s grim assessments of the spread of the infection and sidelined him in favor of more upbeat commentary.Biden has also decided to nominate retired four-star Army General Lloyd J. Austin to be secretary of defense, according to numerous news accounts.Austin, 67, a career officer, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and served 41 years. He would need a congressional waiver to become defense secretary because he has not been out of uniform for at least seven years. If confirmed, he would be the Pentagon’s first Black leader.Throughout his campaign, Biden said he will pay close attention to scientific findings about the coronavirus from Fauci and other medical experts. Aside from reviewing the Pfizer vaccine, U.S. health regulators are to review another produced by the Moderna biotechnology firm next week. Millions of doses of the vaccines could be available later this month, with millions more in early 2021.    In this image from video, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)Biden named Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, a position he held from 2014 to 2017 during the administration of former President Barack Obama, when Biden was second-in-command.The president-elect picked Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a top expert on virus testing, prevention and treatment in the eastern state of Massachusetts, as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.Biden chose Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an expert on health care disparities among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., as chair of his COVID-19 equity task force. She is an associate professor of medicine, public health and management at the Yale School of Medicine.The president-elect picked business executive Jeffrey Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council under Obama, as a coordinator of his COVID-19 response team and a counselor to him. Biden named former White House and Pentagon senior adviser Natalie Quillian as deputy coordinator of the government’s response to the pandemic.The Biden transition team said the health officials “will help fulfill the president-elect’s vision of making health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans — building on the Affordable Care Act to lower health care costs and tackle prescription drug costs.”In a statement, Biden said, “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.”He said that after his inauguration next month, the government would “expand testing and masking, (and) oversee the safe, equitable and free distribution of treatments and vaccines.”Biden said his administration would “rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together.” 

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