Biden taps Murthy as nation’s top doctor, offers Fauci key role as covid team takes shape

WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden has selected a close adviser to help lead the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis, tapping a veteran of the Obama administration to serve as America’s top doctor as the country suffers from a surging pandemic.

Vivek H. Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, has been asked to reprise the role in an expanded version in the new administration, according to an individual familiar with the decision.

Murthy is expected to be part of a team of health-care officials charged with tackling the issue Biden has said would be his top priority upon taking office, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because decisions have not been officially announced.

On Thursday, Biden told CNN that Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, would serve as a chief medical adviser and help his administration with its coronavirus response plan. Fauci, who served on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, has been attacked by the president in recent months as he has contradicted the White House’s message that the pandemic is under control and on the verge of disappearing

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and be part of the covid team,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Biden’s health-care team will be crucial to the success or failure of his presidency, far more than for most administrations. He is posed to take office during a raging pandemic that has killed roughly 275,000 Americans and counting, and at a time when the outgoing administration has weakened the Affordable Care Act, a law that provisions insurance to millions, as many Americans have lost health coverage along with jobs in the pandemic.

Biden also said Thursday that he would ask Americans on the first day of his presidency to commit to wearing a mask for a limited period in an effort to bring the transmission rates down from their current record levels.

“Just 100 days to mask, not forever — 100 days,” he told CNN. “And I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”

Fauci said separately Thursday that he had begun speaking with the incoming administration about plans for controlling the deadly virus and distributing a vaccine in the new year.

Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, a position he’s held since 1984. Ordinarily, Biden’s decision to keep him on would not be noteworthy, but as he’s come under fire from Trump, Fauci has emerged as a national symbol of sound medical advice.

Biden’s comments came against the backdrop of two grim daily records set by the United States on Wednesday, as more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases were reported and more than 100,000 patients were hospitalized.

Murthy may also receive a White House title, beyond his surgeon general position, to signify that he is a central member of the team battling the pandemic, according to a person familiar with the matter, who said it was possible Murthy and Zients could be designated co-leaders of the effort.

Murthy had been one of the candidates under consideration by the Biden transition team for HHS secretary, but Biden’s transition leaders appear to be leaning toward a governor or someone else with more extensive management experience. Murthy is trained in internal medicine, has a public health background and is regarded as a skillful communicator, but he has not run a bureaucracy on the scale of HHS.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) had been considered a leading candidate for HHS secretary, but she was said this week to be out of the running. Another prospect, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), told Rhode Island’s WPRI 12 News on Thursday that she would not be taking the job.
Source: Washington Post

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