VP Pence to Head U.S. COVID-19 Response

February 27, 2020

Yesterday at a press conference, President Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence will lead the COVID-19 response in the U.S. As part of his new role, Vice President Pence will oversee a task force led by U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar.

“I’m going to be putting our Vice President, Mike Pence, in charge.  And Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors, and everybody else that’s working,” said President Trump. “The team is brilliant.  I spent a lot of time with the team over the last couple of weeks, but they’re totally brilliant, and we’re doing really well.  And Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me.  But he’s got a certain talent for this.”

Today, Pence announced Ambassador Debbie Birx, M.D., who will serve on the task force headed by Azar, although Birx will report to Pence. Birx, an Obama-era appointee previously coordinated the Army, Navy, and Air Force in their HIV/AIDS efforts and led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS, Center for Global Health, and their global implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program.

In addition, Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, Jerome Adams, M.D., Surgeon General of the United States and Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, were named to the President’s Coronavirus Task Force headed by Pence and Azar. The Task Force will also be supported by the National Security Council.

In his remarks at today’s COVID-19 media briefing, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., said that “We are at a decisive point.” With the number of new cases reported outside China exceeding the number of new cases in China, he advocates for a comprehensive approach.

“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission. And it must be preparing for all of those scenarios at the same time,” said Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “No country should assume it won’t get cases. That could be a fatal mistake, 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. The point is not only to prevent cases arriving on your shores. The point is what you do when you have cases. But we are not hopeless. We are not defenseless. There are things every country and every person can do. Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks, and prevent community transmission.”

More resources can be found on IHA’s COVID-19 webpage.