White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients will step down from his position in April, President Biden announced on Thursday.
Biden credited Zients with helping the effort to vaccinate Americans against Covid and delivering Covid tests throughout his 14-month tenure.
“Jeff put his decades of management experience to work formulating and executing on a plan to build the infrastructure we needed to deliver vaccines, tests, treatment, and masks to hundreds of millions of Americans,” Biden said in a statement.
Some Biden administration officials viewed Zients as a potential successor to White House chief-of-staff Ron Klain, Politico reported in February.
Zients will be replaced by Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on April 5. White House officials told the New York Times that the selection of Jha, a policy expert in pandemic preparedness, reflects the administration’s recognition that the virus has become endemic and no longer requires a fast-paced crisis response approach.
Jha said in February that it would be “reasonable” to lift mask mandates with the decline of infections driven by the Omicron variant of Covid.
“I do think that over the next few weeks, I think it’s going to be reasonable to lift mask mandates,” Jha told NBC’s Today Show. “I think it’s pretty reasonable for schools as well.”
“I think it’s going to be reasonable to lift mask mandates … I think it’s pretty reasonable for schools as well.”@ashishkjha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, joins us to discuss declining COVID-19 cases and when he thinks mask mandates should be lifted. pic.twitter.com/hgMAEpMBzt
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 17, 2022
Jha warned in the same interview that while the highly-contagious Omicron variant is receding in the U.S., it is impossible to know if a future variant will be less or more “severe.”