Coronavirus Pandemic

Vivek Murthy: Indian-American to head Joe Biden's coronavirus task force

IANS/Wilmington, Delaware
Filed on November 9, 2020
Dr Vivek Murthy, a former US Surgeon General, lost his job when Donald Trump became US President in 2016.


Murthy's appointment has been greeted with joy in Hallagere, a village in Karnataka's Mandya district, from where his family hail.

Bureaucrats dumped by President Donald Trump are America's hot hires on the first Monday after President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris belted out their victory speeches.

Two such notables will lead Biden's 10-member coronavirus task force - the first big item on the transition team's checklist.

Topping the fired-by-Trump list is Indian-American Dr Vivek Murthy, a former US Surgeon General chucked out within four months of the Trump takeover in 2017.

Another notable is Dr Rick Bright, a vaccine expert who filed a whistle-blower complaint after being sidelined for his pushback against Trump's unfounded claims around hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug.

The task force co-chairs are Murthy, former Food Drug Administration Commissioner Dr David Kessler and Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University professor.

Other than Murthy and Bright, Biden's task force features many outspoken Trump critics who have been wringing their hands for months over America's ongoing public health catastrophe: Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon and author; Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist; Luciana Borio, a biodefence specialist; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Celine Gounder; Dr. Julie Morita, a paediatric specialist; Loyce Pace, a global health maven; Dr. Robert Rodriguez, an emergency medicine specialist and Dr. Eric Goosby, an infectious disease expert with expertise in AIDS/HIV.

"Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Biden said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, the election of Biden as the US President-elect has delighted the folks of Hallagere, a non-descript village in Karnataka's Mandya district, as his key Covid-19 adviser Vivek Murthy's family hails from here, an official said on Sunday.

"Vivek Murthy's family, including his father H.N. Lakshminarasimha Murthy and mother Myetraie belong to Hallagere. Vivek's parents migrated to Britain and subsequently to the US, where his father is also a medical doctor at Miami in Florida state," a Mandya district official told IANS on phone.

Mandya is about 100 kms south west of Bengaluru on the way to Mysuru in the southern state.

The news of Biden's election was greeted with joy at Hallagere, as prospects of Vivek, 43, re-joining the US government brightened, as he was the 19th US surgeon-general in the Barack Obama administration.

"As Vice-President, Biden administered the oath of office to Vivek on December 15, 2014. He resigned on April 21, 2017 after Donald Trump took over as President in January 2016," the official recalled.

With the rank of Vice Admiral, Vivek was the highest ranking official of Indian origin in Obama's second term and played an active role in formulating and implementing the Obamacare Affordable Care Act.

With the Covid-19 pandemic devastating the US, infecting over 97 lakh people and claiming 2,36,155 lives till November 4, Vivek is poised to play a key role in Biden's administration as his key adviser.

According to local media reports, Vivek's grandfather H.T. Narayana Shetty was a director in MysoreSugar company at Mandya.

Vivek was, however, born at Huddersfield town in Britain's West Yorkshire, where his father was working after he migrated from Mysuru decades ago.

"The Murthys donated computers to state-run schools at Hallagere and conducted health camps during their visits to the village through the family's Society of Children of Planet Earth Foundation.

Even before Biden assumes office in January 2021, Murthy is tipped to join his Covid task force on Monday to draw an action plan for tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

In his victory speech at Wilmington in Delaware on Saturday night, Biden said: "On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisors to help take the Biden-Harris Covid-19 plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20th, 2021".

During Biden's presidential campaign period, Vivek emerged as one of his top advisers on public health and coronavirus issues.

In May, Vivek was appointed as co-chair to the Healthcare Task Force along with Indian-origin Pramila Jayapal, who also won in Wednesday's election to the House of Representatives as a Democrat Senator from Washington's 7th Congressional district for a third term, defeating Republican Craig Keller.

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