Joe Biden unveils more of his COVID team with new CDC boss

Joe Biden will replace the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and name his own czar to handle the coronavirus outbreak, he revealed in his healthcare team announcement Monday morning.

The president-elect named his team to combat the pandemic as the United States recorded one million new coronavirus cases in just five days: between Tuesday and Saturday, the US saw 1,000,882 COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Biden will replace Robert Redfield, President Donald Trump‘s pick to head the CDC, with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a leading expert on virus testing, prevention, and treatment. 

Biden also named Jeff Zients as Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President. 

In the announcement, the Biden transition team emphasized the diversity of the team and their medical expertise.

‘This is a team that looks like America and brings together leaders with deep experience in public health, government, and crisis management. They are experts in their fields who will restore public trust in the pandemic response by leading with facts, science, integrity, and a laser-focus on bringing COVID-19 under control,’ Biden said in the announcement.

President-elect Joe Biden named his healthcare team Monday morning that will take the lead in fighting the coronavirus pandemic

Biden will replace Robert Redfield, President Donald Trump's pick to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with his own choice

Biden will replace Robert Redfield, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with his own choice

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will be Biden’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Vivek Murthy for U.S. surgeon general, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as the chair of his COVID-19 equity task force.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, as Biden has said, will serve as chief medical adviser to the President on COVID and will also continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Biden still has not picked the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which provides insurance coverage for more than 1 in 3 Americans, including seniors, children and low-income people. 

The team has its work cut out for them. 

As the cold settles in, the number of COVID infections is on the rise. Several states have reinstated their own lock down measures and Biden said he will ask Americans to wear face masks for 100 days. 

‘This fall/winter surge is combining everything that we saw in this spring with everything that we saw in the summer, plus the fall surge going into a winter surge,’ Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’

‘This is not just the worst public health event, this is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side. Yet, we know what behaviors spread the virus and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus,’ she said. 

Birx serves as coronavirus coordinator for Trump’s task force. It’s unclear what role she will play in the Biden administration.   

Dr Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA, predicted on Sunday that the US could reach nearly 4,000 deaths per day in January.

‘As bad as things are right now, they’re going to get a lot worse,’ Gottlieb said told CBS’ Face the Nation.

‘I think by the end of the year we’ll be at about 300,000 deaths and by the end of January we could be pushing 400,000 deaths. We’re going to see consistently probably 2,000 deaths per day and as we get into January toward the peak, we’re going to see over 3,000 deaths per day unfortunately, and maybe get close to 4,000 deaths per day. So this is going to get a lot worse before it starts to resolve,’ he said.    

Xavier Becerra 

Becerra would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services if he is confirmed by the Senate. 

He’s a former congressman from California – he served 12 terms – who crossed swords with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But Pelosi praised Biden’s pick: ‘Attorney General Becerra is a towering champion of health care, whose strategic leadership, keen intellect and outstanding policy expertise were essential in the defense of the Affordable Care Act in the Courts,’ she said in a statement. 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services if he's confirmed by the Senate

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services if he’s confirmed by the Senate

Becerra also was touted as a leading contender to be appointed to fill out Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate term. Ironically, Becerra was tapped to be state attorney general in 2017, when Harris was elected to the Senate. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to fill her seat in a term that expires in 2022. 

He was thought to be a candidate to lead the Justice Department under Biden but, in the past few days, he moved to the front of the line for HHS.

He supported a single-payer health care system – known as Medicare-for-all – which Biden does not favor. But reports indicate Becerra is prepared to follow Biden’s preferred plan of expanding health care coverage under the ACA. 

Biden was reported to be impress with Becerra’s personal story, his skill in defending the Affordable Care Act in courts and his advocacy for mental health issues and greater health coverage for women. 

As attorney general in California, Becerra led 20 states and the District of Columbia in a legal campaign to protect Obamacare from being dismantled by Republicans.

He’s also filed many lawsuits against Trump administration policies on immigration, which made him a hero to the progressive wing of the party, as he battled the president in the court system.

But that could also make for a tough confirmation battle in the Republican-led Senate. 

Becerra was born in Sacramento to a working-class family. His mother emigrated from Mexico and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. He graduated from Stanford as both an undergraduate and for law school.  

HHS is a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees. It oversees drugs and vaccines, medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans. 

Additionally, minorities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. 

Becerra’s appointment also will help silence critics who’ve said there has not been enough diversity among the president-elect’s pick to head Cabinet department. 

Biden has been under pressure from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to appoint more Latinos to his team. 

Becerra is the second Latino that Biden has chosen for his cabinet after picking Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant, to head the Department of Homeland Security. 

Dr. Vivek Murthy 

Dr. Vivek Murthy also served as surgeon general under President Obama

Dr. Vivek Murthy also served as surgeon general under President Obama

Murthy, who served as surgeon general under President Obama, will reprise that role for Biden as ‘America’s doctor.’

During the campaign he was one of Biden’s closest advisers on medical issues and the pandemic. 

He was co-chair of Biden’s Coronavirus Task Force and is expected to be the administration’s public face on the pandemic. 

Under Obama, Murthy helped lead the national response to the Ebola and Zika viruses and the opioid crisis.

He faces Senate confirmation in what could be a tough battle after many Republicans criticized him for calling mass shootings a public health crisis.  

Dr. Rochelle Walensky

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an infectious disease expert, is Biden's nominee to lead the CDC

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, an infectious disease expert, is Biden’s nominee to lead the CDC

Walensky currently serves as Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

The CDC director job does not require Senate confirmation, meaning she can take the reins of the Atlanta-based agency on day one of the Biden administration. 

She is a specialist in infectious diseases and has long worked on HIV/AIDS issues. 

The CDC will play a critical role in managing the distribution of a COVID vaccine.  

Jeff Zients

Biden’s pick to be Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response has a business and economic background.

Jeff Zients, Biden's nominee to be COVID czar, saved and tried to buy the Washington Nationals

Jeff Zients, Biden’s nominee to be COVID czar, saved and tried to buy the Washington Nationals

In President Obama’s administration, Zients served as chairman of the National Economic Council and as director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Zients is known for fixing the botched marketplace rollout of Obamacare when he rescued the website after its disastrous launch in 2013.

He was a member of Facebook’s board of directors from 2018 to 2020.

In 2005, he and Colin Powell formed a group that tried – and failed – to purchase the Washington Nationals. 

He was chairman of the Advisory Board Company, working with David Bradley, the owner of The Atlantic. The two men took the company public and became multi-millionaires. 

He is co-chair of Biden’s transition team.  

Natalie Quillian, another Obama administration veteran, will serve as deputy coordinator of the Covid-19 response.  She was also deputy campaign manager for Biden’s presidential campaign. While in the Obama White House she helped coordinate the interagency response to the opioid epidemic. 

Neither post requires Senate confirmation.  

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith

Nunez-Smith is a co-chair of Biden’s transition team who he named as chair of his COVID-19 equity task force.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is Biden's pick to be chair of his COVID-19 equity task force

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is Biden’s pick to be chair of his COVID-19 equity task force

She serves as an associate professor of medicine, public health, and management and associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. 

Her research at Yale focuses on promoting health and healthcare equity for structurally marginalized populations with an emphasis on centering community engagement.

She grew up in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and established the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network to study early risk and protective factors for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in the eastern Caribbean. 

She is one of three co-chairs of the president-elect’s COVID-19 Advisory Board.  

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