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White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha to leave his post

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By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha will be leaving his post, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday in a statement in which he thanked Jha for his handling of the pandemic.

His departure was reported first by the Wall Street Journal, which said Jha will be the last of the Biden administration’s rotating COVID response coordinators. Jha plans to leave June 15 and return July 1 to his previous position as dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, the newspaper reported.

Jha began his role in spring last year, when the U.S. was still on high alert due to the Omicron variant. Recently, deaths from the outbreak and cases of COVID have continued to decline.

“We’ve now had a sustained period of time with low deaths and hospitalizations. Excess mortality has been down to zero in the past couple of months. As for the impact of COVID on our lives now, we have made a lot of progress,” Jha told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Thursday.

After the removal of the post of the COVID response coordinator, the director of the White House’s nascent Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy, who has not been named, will advise the president and coordinate federal responses to various biological and pandemic threats, the newspaper said

The White House had been expected to cut down its COVID response team after the U.S. government in May ended its COVID Public Health Emergency that let millions of Americans receive vaccines, tests and treatments at no cost.

“As one of the leading public health experts in America, he has effectively translated and communicated complex scientific challenges into concrete actions that helped save and improve the lives of millions of Americans,” Biden said of Jha on Thursday.

Biden said in September last year he believed the pandemic was over in the United States.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Costas Pitas and Daniel Wallis)

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