Share

White House announces coronavirus ‘coordinator’ to lead response under Pence

Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday that Ambassador Debbie Birx will join the White House’s coronavirus task force. | AP Photo/Evan Vucci Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced a global health official as the “White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator,” effectively installing a czar-like figure under him to guide the administration’s response to the…

Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday that Ambassador Debbie Birx will join the White House’s coronavirus task force. | AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced a global health official as the “White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator,” effectively installing a czar-like figure under him to guide the administration’s response to the outbreak.

Ambassador Debbie Birx, who will report to Pence, serves as the U.S. government’s leader for combatting HIV/AIDS globally, according to the White House. She will also join the White House’s coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Birx’s appointment represents the latest swerve by the White House in assigning responsibility to tackle the burgeoning public health crisis. President Donald Trump announced in a news conference Wednesday that Pence would head up the administration’s management of the coronavirus, taking over for Azar.

Earlier Wednesday, Azar had told congressional lawmakers that “I serve as the lead” on coronavirus efforts, and he denied a POLITICO report stating that the White House was weighing whether to appoint a czar to coordinate the response to the spreading epidemic.

Azar insisted at Trump’s news conference, however, that he would remain the chair of the White House task force, indicating Pence would play a supervisory role.

Meanwhile, the White House is battling bipartisan criticism from members of Congress skeptical of the administration’s response and emergency funding request, which some lawmakers have slammed as insufficient to counter the growing epidemic.

Read More