President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith will serve as chair of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force.

An associate professor of medicine, public health and management and associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine, Nunez-Smith counts among the nation’s most distinguished and influential experts on persistent inequities in health care and health outcomes.

In addition to Nunez-Smith, the Biden team also announced other key nominations and appointments of his health team, including Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general; Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief medical adviser to the president on COVID-19. Fauci will also continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“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. “This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on day one to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking, oversee the safe, equitable, and free distribution of treatments and vaccines, reopen schools and businesses safely, lower prescription drug and other health costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans, and rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together.”

Containing the coronavirus pandemic and “opening the nation’s economy responsibly [requires] listening to experts and leaders like the ones we are bringing together on this health care team,” added Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“They are some of America’s top physicians, public health experts, and crisis-tested public servants, and they reflect the very best of our nation,” she said. “This is the team that the American people need and deserve to make quality, affordable health care available to all and to help make sure safe and effective vaccines — as well as testing and treatment — are free and equitably distributed.

“President-elect Biden and I will work closely with this team to marshal the full resources and capabilities of the United States of America to save lives, contain this pandemic, and build better preparedness for future pandemics and other health threats,” Harris said.

Biden also announced the appointments of Jeff Zients as coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and counselor to the president, and former White House and Pentagon senior adviser Natalie Quillian as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 Response.

“This deeply qualified, diverse team will be ready on day one to contain the COVID pandemic,” a transition spokesperson said. “They will ensure the safe, free, and equitable distribution of vaccines; make sure every American has access to affordable, quality health care; and guard against the full range of health threats facing our nation.”

They also will help fulfill the president-elect’s vision of making health care a right — not a privilege — for all Americans, building on the Affordable Care Act to lower health care costs and tackle prescription drug costs, the spokesperson said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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