Choucair will be Biden’s point of contact to expedite vaccine delivery and coordinate with national and local authorities. Biden and his allies credited the Trump administration’s efforts to accelerate the development of the Covid-19 vaccine through its ‘Operation Warp Speed’ initiative, but warned that the pace of fire deployment was below promised targets by the administration. Officials had pledged to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of the year, but the Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that only 2.1 million Americans had received their first vaccine.
“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is lagging behind. Far behind,” Biden said in an address Tuesday afternoon. “I have asked my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort with more involvement and leadership from the federal government to get things back on track.”
Meanwhile, the president-elect has chosen Carole Johnson, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services and former senior White House health adviser Obama-Biden, as the country’s new Covid-19 testing coordinator. Johnson, who has worked on strategies to combat the Ebola and Zika outbreaks as a member of the White House Home Policy Council health team, will focus on expanding testing in schools , nursing homes and other settings – and for high-risk populations that have been affected. hard by the pandemic.
Biden advisers have said Johnson should play a bigger role than Brett Giroir, the deputy health secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, whom President Donald Trump has chosen to serve as the national Covid-testing coordinator. 19 this year and which was frequently requested. test for shortages.
“Testing is an area that we believe has been grossly underutilized and underfunded, and it is essential for an effective public health response,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s novel coronavirus coordinator, told POLITICO . “We need to step up testing to include asymptomatic people and do more screening.”
Johnson will also chair Biden’s new National Pandemic Screening Council, which the president-elect says will ensure tests are assigned fairly and quickly. Biden compared the test card to the War Production Board of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which quickly ramped up production of military vehicles and supplies during World War II.
Additionally, Biden chose Tim Manning, who served as deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the eight years of the Obama-Biden administration, to be the country’s new Covid-19 supply coordinator. Manning currently advises the Pacific Disaster Center, which is overseen by the University of Hawaii, and is on the faculty at Georgetown University. State officials and public health advocates have criticized the Trump administration for shortages of protective equipment, tests, and other supplies during this year’s Covid-19 response, and advisers from Biden said Manning would be empowered to avoid future challenges.
“It will identify any shortages as well as the possible need for [Defense Production Act] action, ”Zients said.
Biden and his advisers say the three officials will each tackle top priorities to contain the Covid-19 crisis.
“To recover from this pandemic, we must take aggressive steps to manufacture, distribute and administer vaccines, tests and personal protective equipment fairly,” the president-elect said in a statement. “These individuals are highly skilled and will restore public confidence in the response to the pandemic by leading with facts, science and integrity.”
Choucair, Johnson and Manning will report to Zients. The positions are full-time roles in the White House, said a transition official.
Zients told POLITICO that the new Biden administration will look to Congress to support its agenda.
“We need sufficient funding from Congress to speed up testing. We need sufficient funding from Congress to administer the vaccines,” Zients said. “So Congress will have to take action and provide the necessary resources so that we can reopen schools, step up testing and make sure we administer vaccines.”
Biden has also appointed additional members to his Covid-19 team, bringing back a host of familiar faces from the Obama administration and health policy circles.
Sonya Bernstein, who served as deputy chief of staff to former HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, will serve as senior policy advisor to the Covid-19 team. Prior to joining the transition, Bernstein was Assistant Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals.
Cyrus Shahpar, who worked on the global rapid response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be the data director for the Covid-19 team. Prior to joining the transition, Shahpar was vice president for Epidemic Intelligence at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative led by Tom Frieden, who was director of the CDC during the Obama administration.
Courtney Rowe, who helped lead strategic communications at the Obama-Biden White House, has been appointed director of strategic communications and engagement for the Covid-19 team. Rowe most recently served as vice president of corporate communications for National Geographic Partners.
Eduardo Cisneros, who served in the Department of Labor under the Obama administration, will be the director of intergovernmental affairs for the Covid-19 team. Cisneros currently works on civic engagement and government relations at AltaMed Health Services and previously worked at SEIU Healthcare, among other roles.
Osaremen Okolo, who previously served as a health adviser to Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Patty Murray, has been appointed political adviser to the Covid-19 team. Clarke Humphrey, who served as deputy digital director of the Biden-Harris campaign, has been selected as the team’s digital director.
Biden’s Covid-19 team could add additional staff as the response evolves, a transition official said.
“It’s a big execution challenge,” Zients said. “Perhaps the greatest enforcement challenge the federal government has ever faced.”