Biden selects FEMA official to lead monkeypox response team

FILE - Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gives opening remarks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its first public hearing to reveal the findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, June 9, 2022. Some of what the House Jan. 6 committee has revealed over the last six weeks about the Capitol insurrection and former President Donald Trump’s actions in the weeks beforehand has been new. And some of it has just become more vivid, thanks to the panel’s interviews of more than 1,000 witnesses. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gives opening remarks at the Capitol in Washington, June 9, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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UPDATED 10:17 AM PT – Tuesday, August 2, 2022

President Joe Biden has tapped a FEMA official to lead his administration’s monkeypox response team amid states of emergency across the country. On Tuesday, the White House named regional coordinator Robert Fenton as the response team’s coordinator and CDC official Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as deputy coordinator.

Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis, an expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQ community, will be tasked with spearheading strategy to address the ongoing outbreak. This as comes as California, Illinois and New York have all declared states of emergency as cases rise. The White House has not said if the administration plans to declare a health emergency on a national scale.

“So when it comes to a public health emergency, that is a decision that that is made by Secretary Becerra,” stated White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “That is not made by the president. But, as you know, we are considering every policy option to help end this outbreak that is urgent and that is important to us. But again, that is up to Secretary Sarah to make that decision.” 

Three House Democrats recently requesed a review of the federal government’s response to monkeypox. Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Richie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.) wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Monday.

The three Democrats asked the agency to conduct a review of the response due to concerns about the virus spreading over the past two months because of delays in procuring tests as well as vaccines. The letter also included a request for the GAO to figure out if any agencies learned anything from the response of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According the CDC, there are now more than 5,000 cases of monkeypox in the US. The virus has been detected in 47 states with Montana, Vermont and Wyoming being the only three with zero cases reported. California and New York are leading in case numbers, while Illinois trails behind them in third.

President Joe Biden is receiving pressure from Democrat House lawmakers to declare a public health emergency amid the rising number in cases across the country. In the meantime, Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis will be working on increasing the availability of testing and vaccines.

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Amber Coakley
Author: Amber Coakley

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