Biden Appoints FEMA, CDC Officials as Head of Monkey Pox Response

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WASHINGTON (TBEN) — President Joe Biden plans to appoint top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as White House coordinators to fight the growing monkeypox outbreak.

The White House said Biden will announce Tuesday that he has tapped Robert Fenton, who as White House coordinator helped lead the FEMA’s massive vaccination efforts for COVID-19 as the agency’s acting administrator when Biden voted for first took office. dr. Demetre Daskalakis of the CDC will be his deputy. Daskalakis, the director of the agency’s HIV prevention division and a national expert on issues affecting the LGBTQ community, previously helped lead the COVID-19 response in New York City.

The White House said the pair would coordinate “strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including an equitable increase in the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments.”

dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and Biden’s top scientific advisor, praised their appointments Monday night and said he hoped they would tighten coordination among the various federal agencies involved in the monkeypox response.

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“Personally, I think we’re dealing with a very serious problem 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 need to really implement the interventions that we have, get a much better sense of the natural history and scope and definitely reach out to the community, and that’s why I think the combination of Bob and Demetre is a really good combination.”

The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. People who got sick so far have mainly been men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone. The virus can cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and pimples in many parts of the body.

The US saw the first case of monkeypox virus confirmed on May 18 and now has more than 5,800 confirmed infections.

The coordinator and deputy coordinator’s announcement reflects the Biden administration’s response to COVID-19, as the president centralized virus response operations from the West Wing, first under Jeff Zients and now with Dr. Ashish Jha.

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Scientists say that, unlike campaigns to stop COVID-19, mass vaccinations against monkeypox will not be necessary. They believe that targeted use of the available doses, along with other measures, could halt the growing epidemics recently designated by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.

Still, the Biden administration has been criticized over the pace of monkeypox vaccine availability. Clinics in major cities like New York and San Francisco say they haven’t gotten enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand and some have had to stop offering the second dose of the vaccine to delay delivery of the vaccine. guarantee first doses. The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses of vaccine available and helped increase domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.

California became the second state in three days on Monday to declare a public health emergency for monkey pox, following action by New York this weekend, but the Biden administration did not appear to be moving in that direction. Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said the decision rested with Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

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“We look forward to working with Bob Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis as we work to end the monkeypox outbreak in America,” Becerra said in a statement. “Bob’s experience in federal and regional response coordination, and Demetre’s vast knowledge of the strengths and limits of our public health systems, will be instrumental in our efforts to stay ahead of the virus and foster a response from the entire government.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday, “The severity of the monkeypox outbreak demands an experienced and tested emergency response leader, so it’s no surprise that President Biden has tapped Bob Fenton for this critical role. Bob has been a vital partner to California, especially during devastating wildfires and during the COVID pandemic.”

TBEN writer Amanda Seitz contributed.

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