President Biden will tap Robert Fenton, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis to be top White House coordinators to lead U.S. monkeypox response

WASHINGTON, DC– President Joe Biden will appoint top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to act as White House coordinators for combating the growing monkeypox outbreak.

The White House said Biden will announce Tuesday that he has tapped Robert Fenton as White House coordinator, who has helped lead FEMA’s mass vaccination efforts for COVID-19 as the agency’s acting administrator when Biden took office. dr Demetre Daskalakis of the CDC is appointed as his deputy. Daskalakis, the agency’s director 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 couple will “coordinate strategies and operations to address the current monkeypox outbreak, including increasing the availability of testing, vaccines and treatments equitably.”

dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s top science adviser, hailed their appointment Monday night and said he hoped they would increase coordination among the various federal agencies involved in the monkeypox response.

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

The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, and sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. So far, men who have sex with men have been the most affected. However, health authorities emphasize that the virus can infect anyone. The virus can cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and pimple-like bumps in many parts of the body.

The first case of monkeypox virus was confirmed in the US on May 18 and there are now over 5,800 confirmed infections.

The announcement by the coordinator and deputy coordinator 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.

Scientists say mass vaccinations against monkeypox will not be necessary, unlike campaigns to contain COVID-19. They believe that targeting available doses, along with other measures, could end the rampant epidemics recently classified as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

Still, the Biden administration has been criticized for the pace of availability of monkeypox vaccines. Clinics in major cities like New York and San Francisco say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose of the vaccine to meet first-dose supplies ensure. The White House said it provided more than 1.1 million doses of vaccine and helped increase 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 for monkeypox after New York took 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 rests with Health Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“We look forward to partnering 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 coordinating responses at the federal and provincial levels, and Demetre’s deep understanding of the strengths and limitations of our public health systems, will be critical as we work to stay ahead of the virus and drive a whole-of-government response. “

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

AP writer Amanda Seitz contributed.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. President Biden will tap Robert Fenton, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis to be top White House coordinators to lead U.S. monkeypox response

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