Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator details path to getting pandemic under control

The White House COVID-19 Response Team and federal public health officials held a press briefing on Wednesday to discuss the status of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Participants included Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair; Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Team; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator.

It was the first of regular briefings from the COVID-19 Response Team in the Biden Administration’s commitment to providing regular information sharing around pandemic response efforts and coronavirus developments.

In his remarks, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator detailed the path to getting pandemic under control in the United States.

He said: Thanks to all of you for joining us. I am Jeff Zients, White House COVID Coordinator. I have the privilege of joining four of America’s leading doctors and health experts today to conduct our first COVID-19 public health briefing.   

I will keep my comments brief because I want to let the experts do most of the talking.

Yesterday, I met with America’s Governors to update them on the state of our response. Today, we are here because we want to have a regular series of briefings to engage with you and the American people on the state of the pandemic to ensure everyone has accurate and up to date information.

The President strongly believes that the scientists who are leading this effort should communicate directly to the American people.

To that end, over the next several weeks, you can expect to hear directly from people like – Dr. Fauci, Dr. Walensky, Dr. Nunez-Smith, and Surgeon General designee Dr. Murthy and others about their respective areas of expertise.

My role as Coordinator of our federal response is to focus on ensuring that we are empowering our experts and using the full capabilities of the U.S. government to respond to and recover from this pandemic. I will participate in these briefings occasionally and have enlisted Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor to our White House COVID-19 Response Team, to lead regular updates on our team’s behalf.

The President believes the federal government should provide clear, accessible, and scientifically accurate information about COVID-19 to the public.

We will not always know the answers to your questions. When we don’t, we’ll tell you. We will update you on our progress and will be open about setbacks along the way.

We will be honest, transparent, and straightforward with the American people.

During these briefings, you will regularly hear about three topics from us:

  • First, the current state of pandemic including data on testing, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
  • Second, developments on the scientific front in areas including potential vaccines, therapeutics, and variants.
  • And, third, operational updates on how we are executing against the President’s National Strategy—including our efforts to get shots in arms, increase testing, secure adequate supplies of PPE and other critical supplies, and reopen K-8 schools.

And we will provide regular updates on our efforts to ensure that equity remains at the core of all we do—that those who need help most, but too often get help last are front and center in our strategy.

I want to highlight an important action that we will take today to expand the number of vaccinators in the field to put needles in arms.

HHS will amend the current Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Ac — otherwise known as the PREP Act — to permit doctors and nurses who have recently retired or become inactive to administer shots, and to permit anyone currently licensed to vaccinate in their state to administer shots across state lines. As the President said, we need to increase the number of places people can get vaccinated. And at the same time increase the number of vaccinators. This action by HHS will help get more vaccinators in the field.

We are lucky to have so many trusted experts joining our team to help the United States and the American people fight and recover from this pandemic.

And we believe the American people will benefit from hearing directly from them.

So with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Walensky

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