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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.