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Jeff Zients, White House COVID response coordinator, to leave post

New COVID variant sparks fears of another surge
New COVID variant sparks fears of another surge 02:03

Washington — Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, will be leaving his post with the Biden administration in April, the White House said Thursday. He will be replaced by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a general internist.

President Biden praised Zients in a statement, saying he selected Zients to lead his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lead the nation's largest vaccination effort "because there is no one better at delivering results than Jeff."

"Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help combat COVID," he said. "He is a man of service and an expert manager. I will miss his counsel and I'm grateful for his service."

Zients joined the White House at the start of the Biden administration to lead its efforts responding to the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when vaccines were starting to be rolled out to the general public. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Holds Briefing
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator, speaks during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

He served as co-chair of Mr. Biden's transition effort and, a veteran of the Obama administration, as director of the National Economic Council and acting head of the Office of Management and Budget. Zients' deputy, Natalie Quillian, will also be leaving in April.

Mr. Biden noted in his statement that when Zients took the helm of the administration's COVID response, less than 1% of Americans were fully vaccinated, few schools were open for in-person learning and at-home COVID testing kits were scarce. Now, with nearly 80% of adults fully vaccinated, nearly all schools open and scores of at-home tests distributed monthly, the president attributed the current landscape to the work of Zients and his team.

"The progress that he and his team have made is stunning and even more important consequential," Mr. Biden said. "Lives have been saved."

While all states have lifted mask mandates and rolled back restrictions following a sharp decline in cases, the president said the work in fighting COVID-19 is "far from done," and he selected Jha to lead the next phase of his administration's response, which includes implementing his National COVID-10 Preparedness Plan.

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