Biden’s Health Team Offers Glimpse of His COVID-19 Strategy

(AP) -
In this 2019, file photo, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Joe Biden’s choices for his health care team point to a stronger federal role in the nation’s COVID-19 strategy, restoration of a guiding stress on science and an emphasis on equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.

With Monday’s announcement of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his health secretary and a half dozen other key appointments, Biden aims to return the federal response to a more methodical, lowkey approach.

By announcing most of the key positions in one package, Biden is signaling that he expects his appointees to work together, and not as lords of their own bureaucratic fiefdoms.

The selection of Becerra as health secretary and businessman Jeff Zients as White House coronavirus coordinator point to a more assertive federal coronavirus role.

Zients has made a name for himself rescuing government programs that went off course, such as the “Obamacare” HealthCare.gov website. Becerra has experience managing California’s attorney general’s office, which is bigger than some state governments.

Biden’s selection of infectious disease expert Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elevation of Dr. Anthony Fauci to medical adviser, and the return of Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general are being read in the medical community as a restoration of the traditionally important role of science in public health emergencies.

Walensky, a widely recognized infectious disease expert, got her coronavirus experience first hand as chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston during the first wave this spring.

“She was a real leader when it came to COVID,” said Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Mass General. “She organized infection control policies within the hospital, she organized treatment studies, she was organizing testing and leading testing.”