Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid Coordinator, Set to Depart This Month

Dr. Jha, who oversaw the Biden administration's pandemic response as it wound down, will return to his post as dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University.

Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid Coordinator, Set to Depart This Month

Dr. Jha will be returning to his position as Dean of the School of Public Health, Brown University, after overseeing the Biden administration’s pandemic response.

By Noah Weiland

6:17 p.m.

Ashish Jha will return to Brown University as the dean of its School of Public Health, where he previously served as the White House coordinator for coronavirus pandemic responses.

In a statement to announce Dr. Jha’s departure, Mr. Biden thanked him for 'effectively translating and communicating complex scientific challenges into tangible actions that helped improve and save the lives of millions Americans'

According to a senior official in the administration who is familiar with the timing, Dr. Jha will leave the White House by June 15.

In April 2022, Mr. Jha was appointed to the Administration as the United States and rest of the globe were recovering from the pandemic's worst effects. He replaced Jeffrey D. Zients who was Mr. Biden’s first Covid Coordinator and is now the President's Chief of Staff.

The fact that his departure was not met with much fanfare shows how the health crisis is no longer a part of American life, despite its continuing impact on the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

The White House staff leading the fight against the disease, like Dr. Deborah L. Birx or Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, were often on TV and became household names when the pandemic started during Donald J. Trump’s last year as president.

Mr. Zients, who had been doing Covid briefings regularly for journalists and the public, continued to do so when Mr. Biden assumed office. He helped to coordinate the distribution and respond to variations that caused a surge in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.

Dr. Jha became well-known as a regular contributor to cable news during this period. By the time Mr. Zients was replaced at the White House by Dr. Jha, the majority of the nation had moved on. Reporters were no longer briefed regularly, and Mr. Biden seldom spoke out on the pandemic.

The administration officially ended the public-health emergency last month. This had been the basis for the government's pandemic response since the beginning of 2020. The White House has also closed down the Covid Response Team that Dr. Jha led and which Mr. Biden had assembled at the start of his administration.

One senior official in the administration said that Dr. Jha delayed his departure as White House officials looked for a leader to lead a new office of pandemic preparedness, which will coordinate Covid-19's response by the Biden administration. The White House has now narrowed down the search to a few dozen candidates. Several of these are considered top candidates, according to this official. The White House is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

Some senior advisors from the White House Covid-19 team are expected to transfer to the pandemic team. These include Lisa Barclay (Dr. Jha's assistant) and Dr. Cyrus Shahpar (the team's data manager).

Covid-19 will be addressed by existing federal infrastructures, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (HSHS) at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In recent weeks, White House officials worked to maintain funding for Project NextGen, a program that Dr. Jha had created called the Covid-19 vaccine. The $5 billion program, led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), aims to develop new vaccine technologies more durable than booster shots approved by federal regulators.

The federal regulators will likely authorize another round this summer to prevent a wave of winter cases.

Dr. Jha also wanted to speed up federal efforts to test wastewater for coronavirus and improve indoor air to reduce its spread.