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Biden Taps FEMA, CDC Officials to Lead White House Response to Monkey Pox Outbreak


Washington — President Biden has named top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to serve as White House coordinators to combat the growing outbreak of monkeypox.

The White House announced Tuesday that the president met with Robert Fenton, who helped lead FEMA’s mass vaccination effort against COVID-19 as acting administrator of the agency when Mr. Biden first took office as White House coordinator. His deputy will be Dr. Dimitris Daskalakis of the CDC. Daskalakis, director of the agency’s HIV prevention division and a national expert on issues affecting the LGBTQ community, previously helped lead New York’s response to COVID-19.

The White House said the pair would coordinate “strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox epidemic, including equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Mr. Biden’s top science adviser, praised their appointments Monday night and said he hoped they would strengthen coordination among the various federal agencies involved in dealing with the outbreak. monkey pox.

“I personally think we’re dealing with a really serious issue here,” Fauci said. “There are a lot of unknowns. There’s a lot known about monkeypox, but there’s still a lot of unknowns. So we really need to implement the interventions that we have, get a much better sense of the natural history and the scope, and absolutely reach out to the community , and that’s why I think the combination of Bob and Demetre is a really good combination.”

Monkeypox virus is transmitted through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. The people getting sick so far have mostly been men who have sex with men. However, health officials stress that the virus can infect anyone. The virus can cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.

The US confirmed its first case of monkeypox on May 18 and now has over 5,800 confirmed infections.

The announcement of the coordinator and deputy coordinator mirrors the Biden administration’s response to COVID-19, when the president concentrated the virus response operations out of the West Wing, first under Jeff Ziedz and now with Dr. Ashish Jha.

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

However, the Biden administration has faced criticism over the rate of availability of monkeypox vaccines. Clinics in major cities such as New York and San Francisco say they have not received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose of the vaccine to ensure the first doses are delivered. The White House said it has made available more than 1.1 million doses of vaccine and helped boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests a week.

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

“We look forward to working with Bob Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis as we work to end the monkeypox epidemic 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 critical as we work to stay ahead of the virus and advance a whole-of-government response ».

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



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