Show an ad over header. AMP

Biden announces health team, taps California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead HHS

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the key members of his health team, tapping California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Health and Human Services secretary and Harvard infectious-disease expert Rochelle Walensky to be director of the CDC.

Why it matters: The team will immediately be in charge of addressing what will likely still be an out-of-control pandemic, including the government's efforts to distribute coronavirus vaccines.


Other appointments:

  • Vivek Murthy has been nominated for Surgeon General, the same role he served during the Obama administration between 2014 and 2017.
  • Rochelle Walensky has been nominated to be director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky is Chief of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
  • Marcella Nunez-Smith will serve as the COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair — a new role in the White House. Smith is a professor at the Yale School of Medicine and the founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center.
  • Jeff Zients will be coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President. He previously provided leadership of the 2013 HealthCare.gov tech surge and oversight of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ fuel-efficiency program.
  • Natalie Quillian will serve as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. She previously coordenated the Obama administration’s interagency response to the opioid epidemic.

What they're saying: “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 statement.

Worth noting: If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the department. He's also been at the forefront of health care legal battles, most prominently over the future of the Affordable Care Act.

  • Becerra has led the effort by a group of 20 states and the District of Columbia in defending the ACA against a GOP lawsuit aiming to strike down the law. The case was argued in front of the Supreme Court last month.

Between the lines: The virus has disproportionately affected people of color, and Becerra's selection follows increasing pressure on Biden from the Latino community and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to diversity his cabinet, per NYT.

  • On the other hand, Becerra has little experience managing a large bureaucracy or in public health, per Politico.

The big picture: If a global pandemic and the future of the ACA weren't enough, the HHS secretary could end up in charge of executing most of Biden's health agenda, particularly if the Senate remains in Republican hands.

  • Becerra's legal background could prove useful in enacting a lawsuit-proof regulatory agenda.

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Keep reading... Show less

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to congressional leadership

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

Keep reading... Show less

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Italy tightens COVID restrictions for 5 regions amid warnings of a growing prevalence of variants

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

Keep reading... Show less

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories