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Xavier Becerra as Health Secretary Nominee

US President-elect Joe Biden is to nominate Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the New York Times reports.

The Times notes that, if confirmed, Becerra "will immediately face a daunting task" in running the department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It adds that his selection to be HHS Secretary is surprising, as Becerra, who also previously represented Los Angeles in Congress, has a high profile on criminal justice and immigration and was thought to be a contender for the US attorney general slot. But according to CNN, Becerra has been a staunch defender of the Affordable Care Act in court and beat out other candidates with stronger healthcare backgrounds. "COVID-19 has made one thing undeniable: We must safeguard the Affordable Care Act — lives depend on it," Becerra said last month, according to CNN.

The Biden transition team additionally announced the selection of Vivek Murthy for surgeon general and Rochelle Walensky to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further, Marcella Nunez-Smith is to chair the COVID-19 Equity Task Force, while Anthony Fauci is to serve as chief medical advisor to the President on COVID-19 as well as stay on as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Jeff Zients is to serve as coordinator and Natalie Quillian as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 response.

The Scan

Latent HIV Found in White Blood Cells of Individuals on Long-Term Treatments

Researchers in Nature Microbiology find HIV genetic material in monocyte white blood cells and in macrophages that differentiated from them in individuals on HIV-suppressive treatment.

Seagull Microbiome Altered by Microplastic Exposure

The overall diversity and the composition at gut microbiome sites appear to coincide with microplastic exposure and ingestion in two wild bird species, according to a new Nature Ecology and Evolution study.

Study Traces Bladder Cancer Risk Contributors in Organ Transplant Recipients

In eLife, genome and transcriptome sequencing reveal mutation signatures, recurrent somatic mutations, and risky virus sequences in bladder cancers occurring in transplant recipients.

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.