Ashish Jha, coordinator of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, is stepping down on June 15 after more than a year at the post, the Biden administration confirmed Thursday.
The general internist physician and academic will return to his job as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, from which he has been on leave since joining the White House in 2022.
"He has effectively translated and communicated complex scientific challenges into concrete actions that helped save and improve the lives of millions of Americans," President Joe Biden said of Jha. "We are a stronger and healthier nation because of his contributions to public service."
Jha succeeded Jeff Zients to lead the response team, which was established by former President Donald Trump in 2020 and initially headed by Deborah Birx. Zients has since replaced Ron Klain as White House chief of staff.
Always understood to be short term, Jha's appointment provided time for the White House to find a permanent director for a wider-scoping pandemic preparedness office. However, the administration is still searching for one.
Three Democrats told Politico that Food and Drug Administration Chief Medical Officer Hilary Marston and Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, were both offered the job and declined.
"We're at a place where those roles are really thankless jobs where there's no funding, no power, no authority to get things done," said Céline Gounder, an infectious disease expert who served on Biden's COVID team.
"So, I think it's creating a lot of challenges in terms of recruiting people to serve in those roles because they're, you're kind of set up to fail," she added.
Jha's departure comes nearly one month after the Department of Health and Human Services allowed the COVID public health emergency declaration to expire on May 11.
COVID hospitalizations over the past week totaled 7,212, one of the lowest numbers since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, deaths due to the virus were down 14.3% from the week prior.
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