The coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the economy, stopped travel and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. She changed the world in ways that would have been unthinkable a year ago. The first days of the Biden administration were inevitably marked by discussions about how his team would tackle the crisis as the US death toll continued its inexorable rise to an astonishing milestone: 500,000 deaths.
Here’s a look at key figures on President Biden’s Covid-19 response team and some of their plans to stop the virus from spreading and regain some semblance of normalcy.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Chief doctor. The longtime head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci said he accepted the president’s offer to be his chief medical advisor “on the spot”. A leading expert on infectious diseases in the country, he has been an adviser to every president since Ronald Reagan and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush for his work in the fight against HIV / AIDS. But it wasn’t until after the pandemic began that he became a household name, when he became a trusted authority in countless press conferences, interviews, and public appearances.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Walensky, previously head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School, replaced Dr. Robert R. Redfield. She has also focused her career on HIV / AIDS and has served as Chair of the Advisory Board on AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health and Advisor to the World Health Organization. Dr. Walensky is committed to restoring public confidence in the agency and providing accurate information “even when the news is gloomy or when the information may not be what members of the administration want to hear”.
Xavier Becerra, Candidate for the Ministry of Health and Human Services. Mr. Becerra was appointed California Attorney General in 2017 when his predecessor Kamala Harris entered the Senate, and he was elected for a full term in 2018. He became known as the leading attacker in the Trump Resistance, filing around 100 lawsuits against the administration on issues such as climate change, gun control, and health care. In particular, he led 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act. Before serving as attorney general, he served in Congress for 24 years, representing a Los Angeles district. If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to head the mammoth division, which has a budget of more than $ 1 trillion. He promised at a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he would find a “common cause” with his critics and is due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, Candidate for general surgeon. Dr. Murthy was a surgeon general under President Barack Obama – he was one of the youngest ever – and is Mr Biden’s candidate for the same position. He is a doctor who teaches at Harvard Medical School and served as Vice Admiral with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Dr. Murthy advocated linking public health and wellness. His book “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World” was published last year. His confirmation hearing is due to begin Thursday.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chairman of the Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. As a doctor and public health specialist at Yale University, Dr. Nunez-Smith a team of 12 experts who advise the President on how to address the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable communities. Dr. Nunez-Smith grew up in the US Virgin Islands and came from a family of health care providers. She has spoken in interviews about how her father suffered a debilitating stroke caused by untreated high blood pressure in his forties that spurred her to work in the public health sector.
Jeffrey D. Zients, Coordinator of the Government’s Covid-19 Response. Mr. Zients, an entrepreneur and consultant, joined the Obama White House in 2009 and became known as Mr. Fix-It with strong operational skills. It was tapped to unravel the chaotic rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance market in 2013. After Mr. Obama stepped down, Mr. Zients joined the private equity fund Cranemere as managing director and was also a member of the Facebook board of directors.
Andy Slavitt, Senior White House Pandemic Advisor. Mr. Slavitt, a former senior healthcare company, was the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017. (His company was previously involved in repairing the ACA website as well.) Mr Slavitt was outspoken in his defense of the Affordable Care Act during the Trump administration – and the pandemic alert in early 2020. He’s active on Twitter, writes on Medium and until recently hosted a podcast on Covid. He has said he took the White House job on “short notice”.
Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for the Covid-19 Response. Dr. Kessler, a pediatrician and attorney who served as the head of the Food and Drug Administration during the presidencies of George Bush and Bill Clinton, will oversee the vaccination program. He will share responsibility with General Gustave F. Perna, who was the chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to accelerate vaccines and treatments. (The Biden administration later dropped that name.) As FDA commissioner, Dr. Kessler known for fighting the tobacco industry and developing nutrition labels for food products. Dr. Kessler is Dr. Fauci near; Both worked together to accelerate the development and approval of drugs that changed the course of the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Woodcock was the longtime director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Review and worked on Operation Warp Speed. The Biden government has not yet appointed a permanent commissioner; Dr. Woodcock and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former senior FDA official, are the obvious frontrunners.