Trump appoints Pence to lead US response to COVID-19
President Donald J. Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will lead the United States COVID-19 response.
“Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors and everybody else that’s working,” Trump said at a White House press briefing. “The team is brilliant — I spent a lot of time with [them] over the last couple of weeks. They’re totally brilliant and we’re doing really well. Mike is going to be in charge and will report back to me.”
Pence announced today that Deborah Birx, MD, U.S. global AIDS coordinator and U.S. special representative for global health, will act as the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator. Birx’s 3-decade career includes work in HIV and AIDS immunology research, vaccine research and global health initiatives. She previously served as director of the CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS.
“We consider her extremely well-qualified. She’s a well-respected physician and scientist,” Infectious Diseases Society of America President and Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member Thomas File Jr., MD, MSc, FIDSA, told Healio. “IDSA has worked with her in the past and we’re pleased with this announcement. I think it’s a very good first step.”
The CDC confirmed the first U.S. case of community-spread COVID-19 in California earlier this week. Orange County and San Francisco have both declared public health emergencies in response to the outbreak. So far, there have been 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including 14 local cases and 45 cases among individuals repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and Wuhan, China.
“I speculated from the beginning that there was community spread of this coronavirus,” Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Healio. “The California case just illustrates that community spread is possible and will become more common and that diagnostic testing protocols must be modified.”
The White House also announced earlier this week that it is seeking $2.5 billion in resources to combat the spread of COVID-19, a request that was criticized by some experts, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as too low.
“No country should assume it will not get cases. That could be a fatal mistake,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said at a press briefing today. “Quite literally, this virus does not respect borders. It does not distinguish between races or ethnicities. It has no regard for a country's GDP or level of development.”
Since the beginning of the outbreak, 2,747 deaths and more than 78,000 cases of the virus have been reported in China. Outside of China, 3,474 cases have been confirmed in 44 countries, including 54 deaths.
“WHO stands ready to support every country to develop its national plan,” Tedros said. “Once again, this is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infections and save lives. Fear and panic do not help.”
“We need our elected leaders to unify the response to this epidemic — which I believe will become a pandemic — and make decisions based on science and not politics,” File told Healio. “The ongoing outbreak underscores the need for a highly trained infectious diseases workforce ready to rapidly respond to emerging and evolving threats to public health and patient safety.” – by Eamon Dreisbach
CDC. CDC Confirms Possible Instance of Community Spread of COVID-19 in U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0226-Covid-19-spread.html. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020.
CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020.
U.S. Department of State. Deborah L. Birx, M.D. https://www.state.gov/biographies/deborah-l-birx-md/. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020.
WHO. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 37. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200226-sitrep-37-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=2146841e_2. Accessed Feb. 27, 2020.
Disclosures: Adalja and File report no relevant financial disclosures.