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Biden picks transgender woman Dr Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary

Pennsylvania health secretary Dr Rachel Levine is poised to become the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate, after President-elect Joe Biden announced her nomination for assistant US secretary of health.

Dr Levine, 64, who is a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, become one of a few transgender people serving in appointed or elected positions in the US when Democratic governor Tom Wolf appointed her as health secretary in 2017.

She was confirmed to that role by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate, and over the last 10 months has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus response.

“She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” he added.

Dr Levine, who graduated from Harvard, is also the president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

She has written in the past on a variety of topics, including the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBT+ medicine.

Although Mr Biden will not be sworn-in to office until 20 January, he and his transition team have already started negotiating with Congress about implementing his $1.9 trillion (£1.3 trillion) plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan aims to create mass vaccination centres across the US, while using government spending to stimulate the pandemic-hammered economy.

Mr Biden has also said that he will implement a new mask policy, which will order Americans to wear face coverings for 100 days to help stop the spread of the virus.

Dr Levine will work in Mr Biden’s cabinet alongside Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, who serves as California’s attorney general.

She will also join businessman Jeff Zients as Mr Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, Rochelle Walensky as the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and Vivek Murthy as surgeon general.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and part of the White House coronavirus task force, will also work closely with Mr Biden’s team.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.