President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients would be leaving his position in April and will be replaced by Ashish Jha, who currently serves as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Jeff Zients steps down as Covid-19 coordinator
Zients first joined the White House Covid-19 response team in January 2021, replacing Deborah Birx, who served as Covid-19 coordinator under the Trump administration.
In his announcement, Biden credited Zients with coordinating how the White House managed the Covid-19 pandemic, suggesting Zients was responsible for the nearly 80% of American adults who are fully vaccinated, schools remaining open, and for the "hundreds of millions" of at-home Covid-19 tests that have been sent to Americans.
"Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help combat Covid," Biden said. "He is a man of service and an expert manager. I will miss his counsel and I'm grateful for his service."
White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Zients is a "once-in-a-generation managerial talent" and a "warmhearted friend."
Ashish Jha to become the new Covid-19 coordinator
In his announcement, Biden said Jha is "one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well-known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence."
Before becoming dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, Jha led Harvard University's Global Health Institute and previously taught at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as Harvard Medical School.
"As we enter a new moment in the pandemic—executing on my National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from Covid—Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job," Biden said.
Biden added that there is still work to be done to combat the pandemic. "We need to provide tests, and treatments, and masks," he said. "We must fight the virus overseas, prepare for new waves, and new variants—all of which can be coming. And we must work with Congress to fund these viral steps, as time is running out to stay ahead of the virus." (Gonzalez, Axios, 3/17; Wagner/Diamond, Washington Post, 3/17; Shabad/Pettypiece, NBC News, 3/17; Shear/Stolberg, New York Times, 3/17)