WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) – The White House on Friday launched an office to prepare for and respond to potential pandemics, to be led by Paul Friedrichs, a military combat surgeon and retired Air Force major general who helped lead the Pentagon’s COVID response.
The new Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy will also take over the duties of President Joe Biden’s current COVID-19 and mpox response teams, the White House said.
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The office will be a charged with “leading, coordinating, and implementing actions related to preparedness for, and response to, known and unknown biological threats or pathogens that could lead to a pandemic or to significant public health-related disruptions in the United States,” its statement said.
Biden announced Friedrichs as the office’s inaugural director. Friedrichs is currently special assistant to the president and senior director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the White House National Security Council.
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The White House had been expected to cut down its COVID response team after the U.S. government in May ended its COVID Public Health Emergency. Biden said in September last year he believed the coronavirus pandemic was over in the United States.
In June, the White House announced the departure of Ashish Jha, the last of the Biden administration’s rotating COVID response coordinators.
Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Alison Williams