President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday announced he is expanding his COVID-19 response team, naming new coordinators for supply chain management, vaccinations and testing.
Biden has been highly critical of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic and has made it a priority to outline how his incoming administration will speed up access to vaccines, protective equipment and other key supplies.
“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,” he said in a statement.
As vaccinations coordinator, Biden tapped Bechara Choucair, currently the chief health officer of Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest private, integrated health system. Choucair is a family physician who previously served as Chicago’s public health commissioner from 2009 to 2014.
As vaccine coordinator, he will focus on coordinating the delivery of vaccines with state and local officials, as well as making sure the shots can get into the population.
Biden on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of moving too slowly on coronavirus vaccinations.
Administration officials had previously predicted there would be 20 million vaccinations by the end of December, but last week acknowledged they would likely not reach that many people.
With just two days to go before the end of the year, only about 2 million people have been vaccinated so far, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.
“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling far behind,” Biden said, adding that as president, he will direct a “much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track.”
For a new testing coordinator, Biden tapped Carole Johnson, currently the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services. Johnson also worked on the Domestic Policy Council in the Obama-Biden White House, including during the Ebola and Zika responses.
The Trump administration’s COVID-19 testing coordinator is Brett Giroir, the Health and Human Services department’s assistant secretary for health. Giroir has come under fire for the slow rollout of testing and shortages throughout the pandemic.
Biden said Johnson “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.”
Johnson will also chair the National Pandemic Testing Board, which will work to ensure equitable test allocation, identify bottlenecks, and overcome barriers to access.
Additionally, Biden named Tim Manning to be the new COVID-19 supply coordinator. Manning served as deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the entire Obama-Biden administration
Manning will focus on ensuring there will be sufficient personal protective equipment, tests, vaccines and other supplies and equipment.