FEMA’s Fenton Appointed Coordinator for Monkeypox Response

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The White House plans to appoint Robert J. Fenton Jr. to be named coordinator of the nation’s monkeypox control amid a mounting epidemic that has prompted three states to declare health emergencies, according to four people with direct knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to comment on the pending announcement.

Fenton is a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he has worked since 1996. He was previously acting administrator of the agency. Fenton helped oversee the Biden administration’s efforts to set up coronavirus vaccination sites, leading to this year’s finalist for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, awarded by the Partnership for Public Service. , a well-governed group representing federal employees and agencies.

“We simply wouldn’t be where we are today in our country’s fight against COVID-19 without the expertise and leadership of Bob Fenton,” said Jeff Zients, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, as part of Fenton’s recognition. “He became an indispensable leader in the entire government’s response — and contributed to a historic nationwide vaccination program.”

The White House also plans to appoint Demetre Daskalakis, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a top deputy for Fenton. Daskalakis, a physician who previously served as a health officer in New York City, had helped lead the CDC’s HIV/AIDS work and has been involved in the federal response to monkey pox. Once profiled by Atlantic magazine as “New York City’s ‘Gay Health Warrior’, Daskalakis also spent weeks publicly warning about the risks of monkeypox to men who have sex with men, as the virus primarily spreads in that community.

“Fenton and Daskalakis will lead the government’s strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including fairly increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments,” the planned announcement, obtained by The Washington Post, said.

The White House announcement is expected on Tuesday. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

More than 5,800 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the United States, mostly in the gay and bisexual community, as public health experts fear it could spread to other populations and become permanently entrenched in the United States. While federal officials have touted the availability of tests and treatments to fight the virus, patients and doctors have complained about bureaucratic barriers and a lack of vaccine supplies. Meanwhile, Illinois and California declared a state of emergency on Monday, with officials saying the measures would help cut red tape and raise awareness of the spread of the virus. New York State also declared a public health emergency for monkey pox last week.

“California is urgently working at all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach. Gov Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement.

In his role as national coordinator, Fenton would send a response previously led by agencies such as the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services, said a government official who spoke about the condition on anonymity because they not authorized to comment.

Asked during an April 2021 Senate credits hearing on the Trump administration’s struggle to coordinate its response to the coronavirus in 2020, Fenton praised FEMA’s ability to then help organize the federal response.

“I think emergency management at all levels of government has a responsibility to be a coordinating function,” Fenton said. “I think that’s something that FEMA does very well … to make sure that everyone is working towards a common set of goals and unity of effort.”

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