WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to nominate top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as White House coordinators to combat the growing monkeypox outbreak.
Biden will announce Tuesday that he has tapped Robert Fenton, who helped lead FEMA’s mass vaccination effort for COVID-19, as the agency’s acting administrator, the White House said Tuesday. took over as the White House coordinator for the first time. The CDC’s Dr. Demetre Daskalakis will be named his deputy. Daskalakis, director of the agency’s Department of HIV Prevention and a national expert on issues affecting the LGBTQ community, previously helped lead New York City’s COVID-19 response.
The White House said the pair would “coordinate strategy and operations to combat the current outbreak of monkeypox, including equitably increasing the availability of testing, vaccination and treatment.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s top science adviser, praised his appointments Monday night and said he hoped they would strengthen coordination between the various federal agencies involved in the monkeypox response.
“I personally think we’re dealing with a really serious issue here,” Fauci said. “There are a lot of unknowns. A lot is known about monkeypox, but there are still a lot of unknowns. So we really have to apply the interventions we have, to get a better feel for the natural history and scope and There’s a whole lot to reach out to the community, and that’s why I think the combination of Bob and Demetre is a really cool combination.”
Monkeypox virus is spread by prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, hugging and kissing, as well as by sharing bedding, towels and clothing. So far the people who get sick have mainly been men who have sex with men. But health officials say that this virus can infect anyone.
The US confirmed its first case of monkeypox virus on May 18 and now has more than 3,000 confirmed infections.
The announcement of the coordinator and deputy coordinator reflects the Biden administration’s response to COVID-19, when the president centralized virus response operations out of the West Wing, first under Jeff Gents and now with Dr Ashish Jha.
Scientists say that, unlike campaigns to stop COVID-19, mass vaccination against monkeypox will not be necessary. They think that the targeted use of available doses, among other measures, could halt the spread of the pandemic, recently designated by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.
Still, the Biden administration has faced criticism over the pace of availability of the monkeypox vaccine. The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine available and helped ramp up domestic clinical capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
California on Monday became the second state to declare a public health emergency over monkeypox, following New York’s action this weekend, but the Biden administration did not appear to be moving in that direction. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the decision would be up to Health and Human Services Secretary Javier Becerra.
“We look forward to partnering with Bob Fenton and Demetre Dudkalakis as we work to end the monkeypox outbreak in the US,” Becerra said in a statement. “Bob’s experience in coordinating federal and regional response, and Demetre’s vast knowledge of the strengths and limitations of our public health systems will be important as we work to stay ahead of the virus and advance the response of the entire government.”