Guest editorial by Michelle Turner. Turner is a lifelong Alaskan and is a scientist working in the environmental field.
Our country is in the middle of a public health crisis. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic Alaskan families and businesses are hurting. With nearly 450,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, including over 250 Alaskans, and millions more out of work, the Biden administration must make up for lost time in tackling the pandemic and rebuilding our nation’s economy. Critical to this is a competent vaccine rollout. The appearance of new, more virulent forms of the virus discovered in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil make this more essential than ever.
Key to President Biden’s plan to slow the spread of the virus, and rebuild our economy is his appointment of a competent, experienced, diverse team, led by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra. Mr. Becerra is the right person for the job; it is essential that he be confirmed and assume his duties as soon as possible.
Throughout his career, Xavier Becerra has been on the frontlines fighting to expand access to affordable health care and protect underserved communities. As a member of Congress, Becerra was an original co-sponsor of the Affordable Care Act, and a staunch defender of Medicare and Medicaid. In his 24 years in Congress, Becerra worked across the aisle to get things done, prioritizing the health and safety of his community over partisan differences. As HHS Secretary, Becerra will “hit the reset” experts are calling for to revitalize our country’s vaccine rollout. Until then, Americans will remain unprotected against the virus, unable to safely return to work, to school, and to normal life.
Alaskans and critical Alaskan businesses like tourism and fisheries are suffering as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and millions across the country are struggling to make ends meet. Nearly 20 million Americans filed for jobless benefits in mid-December and job growth has slowed. We cannot effectively rebuild the economy and get people back to work until the virus is under control, and we need leaders at our federal health department who will confront this crisis head-on. Xavier Becerra is up to this job and must be swiftly confirmed by the Senate.
We have waited long enough for real leadership. With the virus’ spread across Alaska, the country, and throughout the world, we cannot wait any longer. Xavier Becerra is the right person at the right time and he deserves the support of ALL senators. To delay his appointment is to prolong our suffering, and put millions of Americans’ lives in jeopardy. I call upon Senators Murkowski and Sullivan to work to end this pandemic and support the Alaskan economy by voting “yea” on this nominee.