Joe Bidens health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy


Joe Bidens health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy


WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Bidens choices for his health care team point to a stronger federal role in the nations COVID-19 strategy, restoration of a guiding stress on science and an emphasis on equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.

With Mondays announcement of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his health secretary and a half dozen other key appointments, Biden aims to leave behind the personality dramas that sometimes flourished under President Donald Trump. He hopes to return the federal response to a more methodical approach, seeking results by applying scientific knowledge in what he says will be a transparent and disciplined manner.

Zients has made a name for himself rescuing government programs that went off course, such as the Obamacare website. Becerra has experience managing Californias attorney generals office, which is bigger than some state governments.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius knows both men from her service in the Obama administration and says she does not see them working at cross purposes.

A Secretary Becerra cant get up every morning and think only COVID, she said. Hell work on COVID and coordinate the assets of the FDA, CDC and NIH, but hell have lots of other things to do. Meanwhile Zients will be the railroad engineer making sure the trains run on time.

States are ready for the feds to take on a more assertive role, she said. Governors Republicans and Democrats are eager to finally have a federal partner, she said. They have felt not only on their own, but unclear about what was coming out of the White House.


Bidens selection of infectious disease expert Dr. Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elevation of Dr. Anthony Fauci to medical adviser, and the return of Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general are being read in the medical community as a restoration of the traditionally important role of science in public health emergencies.

It means that the response plan will be grounded in health science, said Dr. Nadine Gracia, executive vice president of the Trust for Americas Health, a nonprofit that works to promote public health.

Under Trump, those of us who practice in medicine today have been dismayed, said Dr. Wendy Armstrong, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University medical school. The individuals with the greatest expertise have not had the voice many of us wish they would have had. … This to me signals that the government is ready to put expertise in place that can guide its plan.

Walensky, a widely recognized HIV/AIDS expert, got her coronavirus experience first hand as chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston during the first wave this spring.

She was a real leader when it came to COVID, said Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Mass General. She organized infection control policies within the hospital, she organized treatment studies, she was organizing testing and leading testing.


Even more than the nomination of a Latino politician for health secretary, Bidens selection of Yale Universitys Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is being read as a sign that his administration will work for equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments among racial and ethnic minorities, who have suffered a disproportionately high toll of COVID-19 deaths.

That challenge faces widespread skepticism among minorities that the health care system has their best interests in mind.

Early indications are that the vaccines are highly effective, said Altman of the Kaiser Foundation. But polling indicates a strong undertow of doubts, especially among African Americans.

While states will be able to make the final decisions on who gets the vaccine, there has to be guidance around those decisions so that they are fair and equitable across the country, Altman said. You dont want to have the kind of variations that people will look and say, This just wasnt fair.

Source: AP

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