President Biden on Tuesday tapped senior officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead the U.S. response to monkeypox.
Robert Fenton, a regional FEMA administrator in the West, will serve as the lead coordinator of the response.
Demetre Daskalakis, a public health expert and director of the CDC Division of HIV Prevention, will serve as the deputy coordinator.
Mr. Biden named the pair, who have four decades of combined experience in federal emergency response, as scientists warn that monkeypox is becoming entrenched in the U.S. and other non-endemic countries.
Mayors, governors and LGBT activists have complained about the pace of testing and vaccine distribution as cases mount, predominantly among men who have sex with men. The virus is spread through close personal contact and anyone can contract it.
The U.S. has recorded more than 5,800 cases of monkeypox, and the mounting caseload shows no signs of slowing down.
The White House said the new coordinators will be tasked with tracking the spread of monkeypox with local, state and national partners and making sure communities have the tests, treatments and vaccines they need to control outbreaks. They will also help Americans understand the disease and how its spreads.
“We look forward to partnering with Bob Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis as we work to end the monkeypox outbreak in America,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “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.”
Mr. Becerra has resisted calls to declare a public health emergency over monkeypox, saying the nation can use the tools it has to stay ahead of the virus and end the outbreak.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams went ahead Monday and declared a state of emergency in his city, which is the epicenter of the outbreak.
The declaration will allow him to suspend or revise certain laws to try and fight the virus, which is rarely deadly but features a painful rash and lesions. Patients also report fatigue, muscle aches and fever.
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