President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced he’s picking Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, as his incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Walensky, also a professor of medicine at Harvard, will replace Dr. Robert Redfield, who was appointed in 2018 and has been one of President Donald Trump’s main advisers during the coronavirus pandemic. Politico and Reuters first reported Walensky’s selection on Sunday evening.
The role is sure to be one of the most essential in Biden’s incoming administration as the nation reels from the threat of COVID-19. More than 281,000 people in the United States have died from the virus and the country has shattered records for rates of daily infections, daily fatalities and hospitalizations this month in what officials have declared the worst phase of the pandemic thus far.
Several vaccine candidates have shown promising results and could soon be approved for widespread use, but healthcare leaders have warned the U.S. should prepare for a dark winter. The CDC has issued more dire public health guidelines in recent weeks, including urging all Americans to adopt “universal mask use” indoors anywhere except at home.
Biden has been working quickly to assemble his team of health officials before he assumes office on Jan. 20. Earlier this month, the president-elect said he had asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to serve as his chief medical adviser as he has done for six previous administrations.
Fauci said he agreed “right on the spot.”
“I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the COVID team,” Biden told CNN on Thursday.
Biden on Monday also announced his picks for several other key roles on his health team, including nominating California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and bringing back Vivek Murthy as surgeon general.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.