Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) formally announced key members of his incoming administration’s health team, which includes Indian-American doctor Vivek Murthy, who will be responsible for managing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce a team who’s going to do just that. It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism,” he said in a briefing from Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden nominated Indian-American doctor
Biden nominated Indian-American doctor Vivek Murthy as Surgeon-General, Xavier Becerra as the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Dr Rochelle Walensky as the director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Anthony Fauci as chief medical adviser to the President, Jeff Zients as coordinator of the COVID-19 response, Natalie Quillian as deputy coordinator to the COVID-19 response, and Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith as the chair of his Covid-19 equity task force.
During his briefing, Biden outlined three key goals in the first 100 days in office, including masking, vaccinations and opening schools for children.
“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus, I can’t promise that. But we did not get into this mess quickly, we’re not going to get out of it quickly. It’s going to take some time,” he said.
“I am absolutely confident that in 100 days we can change the course of this disease and change life in America for the better. First, my first 100 days, I am going to ask for a masking plan. Everyone for the first 100 days of my administration will wear masks. It will start with my sign in order on day one to require masks where I can under the law, like federal buildings, interstate travel on planes, trains and buses. I’ll also be working with the governors and mayors to do the same in their states and their cities. We’re going to require masks wherever possible. But this goes beyond government action.”
100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in 100 days
He also said that his new health team will help provide at least 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days.
“We will follow the guidelines of science to get the vaccine to those most at risk, that includes healthcare professionals, people in long term care, and soon as possible, we will include educators. This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in US history,” he said.
He further said that this would be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in the nation’s history, and called on the US Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of the country, to everyone.
“The third thing I’m going to ask in the 100 days, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school. If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators, and staff, if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days,” further said the President-elect.
Dr Murthy said that in his new role, he will work to bring a health focus to the country’s policies across the government, so that the schools, workplaces and our communities can be forces for strengthening health and well-being.
“More than anything, I will come to this role as a doctor. One who learned the most important lessons about medicine, not in medical school, but from the clinic that my parents opened when they first came to America as immigrants decades ago… Driven always by science and facts, by head and by heart, and endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India could be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of an entire nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Becerra stated that the Department of HHS has never been as vital or urgent as it is today, adding that at HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, keeping us healthy should be the country’s calling card.
“We won’t forget that there is a second H in HHS, the human services, the work we do for our children, seniors, and disabled, they will stand tall in a Biden Harris, HHS,” he said.
Dr Walensky said that she was honoured to work with an administration that understands that leading with science is the only way to deliver breakthroughs, hope and bring the nation back to full strength.
Recalling her experience during the HIV-AIDS crisis, “As a medical student, I saw first-hand how the virus ravaged bodies and communities. Inside the hospital, I witnessed the people losing strength and hope, while outside the hospital I witnessed those same patients, mostly gay men and vulnerable communities, being stigmatised and marginalised by their nation and many of its leaders.”
“To the American people and to each and every one of you at the CDC, I promise to work with you, to harness the power of American science, to fight this virus and prevent unnecessary illness and deaths so that we can all get back to our lives,” she added.
The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Fauci said that the virus was the “toughest” public health crisis ever faced in the nation.
“These actions are bold, but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopen schools and businesses, and to eventually beat the pandemic. I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities and to work with this team of world-class experts, whom I have known for many years and deeply respect… The road ahead will not be easy. We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year. But as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together as a nation,” he said.
Gratitude to healthcare workers
Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris expressed gratitude to healthcare workers.
“Getting this virus under control is one of the defining challenges of our time, and we will do what the American people have always done in the face of a great challenge. We will stand together and we will defeat it,” she said.
The United States continues to be the worst-affected state of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 15,087,418 infections and 285,518 deaths.