Last week, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to serve as the White House’s coordinators in their ongoing work to combat the expanding monkeypox outbreak.
Biden made it official on Tuesday, naming Robert Fenton as the White House coordinator. Fenton was instrumental in organizing FEMA’s mass vaccination effort for COVID-19 as the agency’s administrator in the first days and weeks of Biden’s administration.
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis of the CDC will serve as deputy coordinator. Dr. Daskalakis previously helped lead New York City’s COVID-19 response, is the director of the agency’s HIV prevention division, and one of the nation’s most respected experts on issues affecting the LGBTQ community.
An Associated Press report indicated the pair would implement “strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments.”
Their first official act was to declare a national public health emergency on Thursday afternoon. The declaration avails the administration of emergency funds, while accelerating vaccine distribution and making it possible to collect more data and statistics pertinent to the outbreak.
The outbreak has expanded to almost 7,000 confirmed infections within U.S. borders since the first case of the virus was confirmed on May 18. At the end of July, New York and California became the first states to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, with Illinois following suit on August 1.
“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 federal and regional response coordination, and Demetre’s vast knowledge of our public health systems’ strengths and limits will be instrumental as we work to stay ahead of the virus and advance a whole-of-government response.”
Usually found in West and Central Africa, monkeypox first appeared in the United States during a 2003 outbreak. But that summer’s outbreak topped out at only 35 reported cases in humans, all traced back to contact with prairie dogs obtained from an animal distributor in Illinois, the CDC said.
SOURCES: Associated Press, Business Insider