WASHINGTON — Joe Biden's hunt for a health secretary narrowed Thursday after Rhode Island's governor took herself out of contention and the president-elect was said to have chosen a co-chairman of his coronavirus advisory board, Vivek Murthy, to serve another stint as surgeon general.
The moves leave New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as the only candidate known to be under consideration to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, according to people familiar with the matter. Biden is expected to announce top health leaders in his administration as soon as next week.
If he's confirmed, Murthy will serve as surgeon general while working with Biden's apparent choice for COVID-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, to steer the federal response to the pandemic, people familiar with the matter said.
Murthy's selection for surgeon general, if made official, removes him from the health secretary race.
A spokesman for the Biden transition declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Thursday that she would not take the job.
"I am not going to be President-elect Biden's nominee for HHS secretary," Raimondo said during a state coronavirus briefing Thursday, according to WPRI. "My focus is right here in Rhode Island, as I have said. I'm working 24/7 to keep Rhode Islanders safe, and keeping our economy moving, and I have nothing else to add on that topic."
Murthy and Raimondo were seen among the top tier of candidates for the post, along with Grisham, who has already turned down the role of interior secretary, according to people familiar with the matter. It's not clear who else Biden's team may be considering to be the nation's top health care official. Murthy's and Zientz's possible selections were first reported by Politico.
Biden had aimed to announce his health team as soon as Monday, teeing off a week that will also include a crucial FDA meeting on approval of the first coronavirus vaccines. The president-elect has made the coronavirus response a pillar of his campaign and his transition.
Biden's transition team was also scheduled to meet remotely on Thursday with Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said in an MSNBC interview earlier that he planned to remain in his role under the new president.(c)2020 Bloomberg News Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC