I encouraged Jeff Zients to lead my administration’s COVID-19 response because no one is better at delivering results than Jeff.
COVID-19 is the biggest public health crisis we have faced in my life, and it required the country from the ground up to build an emergency preparedness infrastructure that could quickly and fairly provide people with life-saving protection. Jeff put his decades of management experience into working to formulate and execute a plan to build the infrastructure we needed to deliver vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks to hundreds of millions of Americans.
When Jeff took this job, less than 1% of Americans were fully vaccinated; fewer than half of our schools were open; and unlike much of the developed world, America lacked any COVID tests at home. Today, almost 80% of adults are fully vaccinated; over 100 million have been boosted; virtually all schools are open; and hundreds of millions of home tests are distributed every month. In addition, the United States is leading the global effort to combat COVID and delivering more free vaccines to other countries than any other nation on Earth. The progress he and his team have made is astounding and more importantly. Life has been saved.
Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help fight COVID. He is a serviceman and an expert leader. I will miss his advice, and I’m grateful for his service.
Thanks to all the progress we have made, Americans are certainly moving back to more normal routines by using the effective new tools we have to enable us to reduce serious COVID cases and make jobs and schools safer. But our work to combat COVID is far from complete. We must continue our efforts to provide more vaccines and boosters. We must have approved a vaccine for the youngest children. We must continue to improve the way our schools and workplaces handle COVID. We must pay particular attention to protecting the vulnerable from COVID, even though many restrictions will be lifted. We have to provide tests, treatments and masks. We must fight the virus abroad, prepare for new waves and new varieties – all of which can come. And we need to work with Congress to fund these vital steps, as time is running out to be at the forefront of the virus.
To lead this effort, I am pleased to appoint Dr. Ashish Jha as the new COVID-19 Response Coordinator in the White House. Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America and a familiar figure to many Americans from his wise and reassuring public presence. And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic – executing my national COVID-19 contingency plan and dealing with the ongoing risks from COVID – Dr. Jha the perfect person for the job.
I appreciate both Jeff and Dr. Jha to work closely together to ensure a smooth transition and I look forward to continued progress in the coming months.