Daily Briefing

Around the nation: White House COVID-19 chief science officer to depart later this month


The White House on Friday announced the departure of David Kessler, its chief science officer for COVID-19, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Georgia/Maine, and Pennsylvania.

  • District of Columbia: The White House announced on Friday that David Kessler, the administration's chief science officer for COVID-19, will be stepping down from the role this month. As part of the White House COVID-19 task force, Kessler was largely responsible for the "behind-the-scenes" work of developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Through his time as chief science officer, Kessler helped set up mass vaccination sites, encouraged the development of antivirals, and negotiated with drug companies to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines would be available to everyone. "Whether he was leading our effort to develop and distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, or sharing his perspective during daily strategy sessions and data deliberations, Dr. Kessler's contributions to our COVID-19 response have helped save lives," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. (Stolberg, New York Times, 1/13; Owermohle, STAT, 1/13; Owens, Axios, 1/13)
  • Georgia/Maine: CDC has appointed Nirav Shah as its principal deputy director, replacing Debra Houry as the agency's second-in-command under Director Rochelle Walensky. As Shah joins the federal agency, he will be stepping down from his role as the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D), Shah was an integral part of the state's success in combating the pandemic. "Day after day, week after week, Dr. Shah spoke calmly and directly to the people of Maine, many of whom were scared and uncertain," Mills said. "He delivered to us the unvarnished truth, as best we knew it, and answered our questions with compassion, empathy, humor, and a clarity that gave us much-needed hope in our darkest of days." Currently, Deputy Director Nancy Beardsley will serve as acting chief of the Maine CDC while the state conducts a national search for the agency's next director. (Reuters, 1/12; Whittle, Associated Press, 1/12)
  • Pennsylvania: Jefferson Health has announced plans to restructure its organization from five divisions into three amid ongoing financial challenges. The three regions will be the north, central, and east regions, and each will be led by a president. Currently, Jefferson is still searching for someone to lead the east region. According to a spokesperson, the changes will "streamline processes and optimize our health system." Similarly, Joseph Cacchione, CEO of Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University, said the consolidation was in the organization's "best interest" and that he supports its integration efforts. (Hudson, Modern Healthcare, 1/13)

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