Biden unveils picks for health officials who'll lead COVID-19 response

California AG Xavier Becerra will be nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

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President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced key health positions that'll lead his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic after he takes office in January. Biden will nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and Harvard infectious disease expert Dr. Rochelle Walensky to be director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"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," Biden said in a release. 

Biden last week said Dr. Anthony Fauci will continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and also serve as chief medical adviser in the new administration. 

In the US, more than 282,000 people have died from COVID-19 and more than 14 million cases have been confirmed, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard. Once in office, Biden's health team will likely face continued COVID-19 spikes and be in charge of the government's efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines. Biden also said last week he will ask Americans to wear face masks for his first 100 days in office. 

Among the other appointments and nominations announced on Monday, Biden will nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general. Murthy was previously surgeon general under the Obama administration and is on the Biden transition team's COVID-19 advisory board. The president-elect also selected Jeff Zients to be coordinator of the White House's coronavirus response and Yale health expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to be chair of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force, Biden's transition team said. 

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