WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.
If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
It's a $1-trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.
If confirmed, Becerra would play a key role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and the implementation of public health policies amid the pandemic. Biden has already said that he will ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days following his inauguration.
Biden has also selected Dr. Rochelle Walensky — an infectious disease expert from Harvard — to run the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Walensky's selection does not require CDC confirmation.
Additionally, Biden is expected to name businessman Jeff Zients — a former Obama economic adviser — as the White House coronavirus coordinator.
And, Dr. Vivek Murthy is expected to reprise his role as Surgeon General. Biden says he'll nominate Murthy to lead the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, a position he held during the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed that he will remain in his role as the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and will also serve as an adviser to Biden.
According to the AP, Biden is expected to name other top health officials as early as Tuesday.