Ashish Jha, an Indian-origin physician and public health specialist from Brown University, has been appointed the new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Dr. Jha will replace Jeff Zeints, who has led the Biden administration’s pandemic response thus far, U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Thursday.
“Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence. And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic — executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID — Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job,” Mr. Biden said. He also praised Mr. Zeints for his efforts in setting up the infrastructure to fight the pandemic.
“He is a man of service and an expert manager,” Mr. Biden said.
Dr. Jha , who is the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, has been a commentator with The Hindu and, since the pandemic began, appeared multiple times on Indian television. Dr. Jha has worked on ebola and was a co-chair of a commission to tackle an outbreak of the disease in West Africa in 2014 , according to a biography from Brown University.
Dr. Jha will take over the role at a time when close to a million Americans have died from COVID-19. The U.S. has just witnessed a wave of the Omicron variant, even as news of a new subvariant BA.2 — causing surges of the pandemic in Europe — is being watched closely. Two years into the pandemic and with three quarters of its population having received a single dose of the vaccine, the country is shifting to a different approach to managing COVID-19 as it shows signs of becoming endemic.
“We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well being,” Dr. Jha said on Twitter, as he acknowledged that “a lot” of progress had been made already.