Biden, Harris name additional members of COVID-19 response team, including daughter of Nigerian immigrant Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 28, 2021

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on Tuesday named additional members of their COVID-19 response team, including the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant Osaremen Okolo as COVID Policy Advisor.

As part of today’s announcement, the president-elect and vice president-elect named coordinators for three crucial aspects of the COVID-19 response strategy: supply chain management, vaccinations, and testing.

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Those appointed include Sonya Bernstein as COVID Senior Policy Advisor, Bechara Choucair as Vaccinations Coordinator, Eduardo Cisneros as COVID Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Clarke Humphrey as COVID Digital Director, Carole Johnson as Testing Coordinator, Carole Johnson as Testing Coordinator, Tim Manning as Supply Coordinator, Osaremen Okolo as COVID Policy Advisor, Courtney Rowe as Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement, Courtney Rowe as Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement, and Cyrus Shahpar as COVID Data Director.

The Supply Coordinator will coordinate the federal effort focused on securing, strengthening, and ensuring a sustainable pandemic supply chain, working with departments and agencies to ensure there is sufficient PPE, tests, vaccines, and related supplies and equipment, while the Vaccinations Coordinator will focus on making sure vaccines turn into vaccinations by coordinating the timely, safe, and equitable delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations for the U.S. population, in close partnership with relevant federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local authorities.

The Testing Coordinator will coordinate the federal effort to expand COVID-19 testing and the use of testing for an effective public health response, with an emphasis on expanding and targeting testing for schools, nursing homes, other at-risk populations, and communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The Coordinator will chair the National Pandemic Testing Board, which will work to ensure equitable test allocation, identify bottlenecks, and overcome barriers to access.

What they are saying:

President-elect Joe Biden: “This accomplished and experienced team will work to get the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to their lives and to their loved ones. To recover from this pandemic, we must take aggressive action to manufacture, distribute, and administer vaccines, testing, and personal protective equipment in an equitable way. These individuals are deeply qualified and will restore public trust in the pandemic response by leading with facts, science, and integrity.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: “Containing the coronavirus pandemic is one of the defining challenges of our time. This outstanding team will help us defeat this challenge by helping us get this virus under control, responsibly reopen our economy, and safely reopen our schools. I look forward to working closely with these dedicated public servants to save lives, contain this pandemic, and build better preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats.”

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain: “To contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we must implement an aggressive response to slow the spread of the virus, protect frontline workers, and ensure the safe and efficient delivery of treatments and vaccines. This team is deeply qualified to help lead our White House efforts to protect the American people from the virus.”

Read extended biographies of the appointees listed below in alphabetical order: 

Sonya Bernstein, COVID Senior Policy Advisor

Sonya Bernstein is an advisor for COVID-19 on the Biden-Harris Transition. Prior to joining the transition, she served as Assistant Vice President at NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest municipal public health care system. Bernstein served as Assistant Secretary for Health & Economic Policy for the State of New York. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Advisor to Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Born in New York, Bernstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Bechara Choucair, Vaccinations Coordinator

Bechara Choucair, MD, currently serves as senior vice president and chief health officer for Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest, private, integrated health system with over 12 million members across the U.S. He was Chicago’s public health commissioner from 2009 to 2014. Dr. Choucair has held executive leadership positions focused on serving under-resourced communities and increasing healthcare access at several health systems, including Trinity Health, Heartland Health Centers, and Crusader Community Health. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Choucair is a family physician by training, with an MD from the American University of Beirut. He immigrated to the United States in 1997 and completed his family medicine residency training at Baylor College of Medicine. He has a master’s degree in healthcare management from the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Eduardo Cisneros, COVID Intergovernmental Affairs Director

Eduardo Cisneros currently serves as Director of Civic Engagement, Government Relations at AltaMed Health Services, one of the nation’s largest Federally Qualified Health Centers on the frontline responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to joining AltaMed, Cisneros worked for the NALEO Education Fund. Before that, he worked at SEIU Healthcare in Washington, DC. In 2016, Cisneros served as Regional Political Director for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Cisneros also served in the Obama-Biden administration as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor. Previously, Cisneros worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school district. Originally from California, Cisneros is a graduate of California State University-Long Beach as well as the University of Chicago. He is relocating to Washington, DC with his wife and son.

Clarke Humphrey, COVID Digital Director 

Clarke Humphrey served as Deputy Digital Director on the Biden-Harris Campaign overseeing the grassroots fundraising operation. Prior to joining the campaign, Humphrey oversaw the email, SMS, and digital ads programs at the DNC as the Online Fundraising Director. Humphrey has also spent some time at a digital ads firm and worked as the North Carolina Digital Director on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Originally from Massachusetts, Humphrey graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism.

Carole Johnson, Testing Coordinator

Carole Johnson is the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, which provides health care and social services to about one-in-five New Jerseyans. Johnson previously served as the Domestic Policy Council public health lead in the Obama-Biden White House, including during the Ebola and Zika responses. Johnson also worked on Capitol Hill for members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees. She managed health care workforce policy issues at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was policy director for the Alliance of Community Health Plans, program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts health program, and senior government relations manager with the American Heart Association. Originally from New Jersey, Johnson holds a Master’s degree from the University of Virginia.

Tim Manning, Supply Coordinator 

Tim Manning is the former Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Protection and National Preparedness, serving the entirety of the Obama-Biden Administration. Since leaving the federal government in 2017, he has been an advisor and executive with the Pacific Disaster Center, a global applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii, and has served on the faculty of the Disaster and Emergency Management studies program at Georgetown University. Manning has spent his entire career focused on managing crises, previously serving as the Secretary of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the State of New Mexico, as a firefighter-EMT, rescue mountaineer, and geologist. Raised just outside Chicago, Manning is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and the University of St. Andrews.

Osaremen Okolo, COVID Policy Advisor 

Osaremen Okolo serves on the Biden-Harris Transition domestic policy team. Prior to joining the transition, Okolo served as Senior Health Policy Advisor to U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. Okolo drafted, negotiated, and managed the Congresswoman’s legislation, oversight, and policy across a comprehensive health care and public health agenda, most recently focusing almost exclusively on the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Okolo served as Legislative Aide for Health Policy on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) for Ranking Member Patty Murray of Washington. A daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Okolo was born and raised in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.

Courtney Rowe, Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement 

Courtney Rowe served for six years in the Obama-Biden Administration including as the Special Assistant to the President for Message Planning, White House Associate Communications Director, and Communications Director for the White House Domestic Policy Council. In these roles, she helped lead strategic communications for a number of President Obama’s top policy priorities and crisis communications efforts. Prior to her time in the White House, Rowe served as Deputy Communications Director and Chief Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rowe worked for five years on Capitol Hill as Associate Director of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and Communications Director for the Senate Agriculture Committee. Since leaving the federal government in 2017, Rowe has served as the Vice President of Corporate Communications for National Geographic Partners. Originally from Arkansas, Rowe is a graduate of Arkansas State University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and son.

Cyrus Shahpar, COVID Data Director

Cyrus Shahpar, MD, serves on the Biden-Harris Transition Agency Review Team for the Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to this role, Dr. Shahpar served as Vice President for Epidemic Intelligence at the Resolve to Save Lives initiative of Vital Strategies. This included serving as the Chief Science Officer in the COVID-19 response. Previously, Dr. Shahpar served as Team Lead of the Global Rapid Response Team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At CDC, he graduated from the Epidemic Intelligence Service and served as a uniformed officer in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He also served as an attending emergency physician at Emory University. Originally from California, Dr. Shahpar is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife and two sons. 

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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