Joe Biden announced March 17 that, in April, Dr. Ashish Jha will serve as the next White House COVID-19 response coordinator, a man who apparently considers Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci to be a personal role model.
Jha, who has regularly served as a coronavirus expert on CNN and other cable and network news shows throughout the pandemic, is the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
“Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence,” Biden said during his announcement. “And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic – executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID – Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job.”
According to Politico, Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, applauded the selection of Jha.
“His appointment is really confirmation that the White House understands that this is not over,” Becker said. “Putting a public health person in that role speaks volumes to me. They get it.”
According to STAT, Beth Linas, research epidemiologist at RTI International, a nonprofit science-based group, commented:
Jha is a both a medical and public health expert who has been a voice of reason and clarity during the pandemic. The only thing I wonder is how another academic with limited government experience will help the nation. Government experience is a really important aspect of leading the massive federal bureaucracy.
In August 2020, the Brown Daily Herald, the media organization for Brown University, featured an article about an interview Jha conducted with Fauci regarding vaccines and the “reopening” of the country following the pandemic lockdowns.
At the time, Jha was the incoming dean of Brown’s School of Public Health and outgoing director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
“Thursday evening before the event, Jha looked forward to his conversation with Fauci, a scientist who he has long considered a personal role model,” the Herald reported.
“One of the things I really admired about (Fauci) is his ability to communicate effectively to people,” Jha told the Herald. “He doesn’t dumb things down.”
“I think it’s really important that public health leaders speak up at a moment like this, especially when there’s so much misinformation out there … it’s particularly important to have credible scientific forces,” Jha added.
The following November, Jha penned an op-ed at the New York Times that led with the headline, “The Snake-Oil Salesmen of the Senate,” in which Jha ridiculed Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who hosted the first of two hearings on the subject of early treatment of COVID-19.
That hearing featured testimony by Drs. Peter McCullough, Harvey Risch, and George Fareed – all researchers and practitioners who have successfully treated patients who have had COVID.
In his opening statement, Johnson remarked on the obvious crux of the matter: the federal government’s health agencies were showing no interest in treating Americans with COVID infection until they were so sick they required hospitalization:
We are all aware that Tamiflu is only effective when prescribed early enough to stop the flu virus from replicating, and before the patient becomes too sick. Why haven’t federal agencies, and the medical community, applied the same logic and approach to coronavirus?
Sen. Gary Peters’ (D-MI) witness was Jha, who admitted, upon questioning by Johnson, he had never treated patients with the COVID infection.
Interestingly, in an interview early last month on CBS Mornings, Jha said he is “taking care of sick patients with COVID”:
If you wear a high quality mask, a KN95 and N95, which are now widely available, you can protect yourself under pretty much all circumstances. When I think about, when I’ve been in the hospital taking care of sick patients with COVID, I’m wearing an N95. And they’re not. The patients are not necessarily wearing masks. And yet I know that I am protected by that and of course I’m protected by my vaccine.
Ahead of the first Senate hearing in November 2020, Jha appeared to be mocking the topic of early treatment, tweeting Johnson “wants to discuss Hydroxychloroquine as outpt therapy for COVID.”
“Other witnesses are all big Hydroxy fans so I’ll be a little lonely,” he added.
Referring to his participation as a Democrat witness at the hearings, ABC News reported earlier this week that Jha “has already racked up some government experience, participating in congressional hearings on the national pandemic response and advising the Biden White House on the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.”
The report further noted the White House’s motivation for tapping Jha as the new COVID czar:
For the White House, Jha’s popularity is a selling point in the face of a growing communications problem for the Biden administration, under whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been criticized for being too slow and vague in its guidance on issues like masking recommendations and quarantine timelines.
ABC News observed as well that Jha has “also been tied to the Washington circuit through consulting work – including work with one firm that some experts have criticized for the opaque nature of its client lists, raising questions regarding potential conflicts of interest”:
Listed as a “senior advisor” at the boutique international consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group, Jha is the latest addition to a long list of senior Biden administration officials who have previously worked at consulting firms with murky client lists.
In his CBS Mornings interview last month, Jha discussed the then-anticipated Pfizer vaccine for babies and toddlers, aged six months to under five years, with much enthusiasm:
I have a lot of friends who are parents of young kids, kids under five. And for them it’s a huge game changer, right? It makes an enormous difference for them in terms of knowing that their kids are protected and reducing their anxiety. I do expect that authorization to happen in the next month or so. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will help a lot.
Dr. Peter McCullough, cardiologist and early treatment champion, tweeted a warning sign found at an office of Virginia pediatricians – who “care for children” – that stated, “COVID Vaccination Affects Your Heart – If You Received Doses of Any COVID Shot” We Will Not Clear You ‘Without Lab Work.'”
Just a couple of weeks after Jha’s open praise for the Pfizer shots for the youngest of children, the drug company and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backed away from the plan for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), citing insufficient data on the effectiveness of a third dose of the vaccine.
The New York Times referred to the announcement of the change in plans between FDA and Pfizer as “a striking reversal”:
Pfizer-BioNTech asked for the delay after the companies discovered that the Omicron wave had led to a far higher rate of infection than they had previously recorded among young volunteers in their clinical trial. The new data underscored that the Omicron variant was better than the earlier Delta variant at evading the vaccine’s protection, and it showed that two doses, which had already fallen short by another measure, were not effective enough.
FDA announced the postponement of approval for the Pfizer shot for babies and toddlers, however, all the while claiming, as Fauci and CDC have as well, they are “following the science.”
A little over a week later, the Times also reported the fact that CDC had withheld large portions of the data it collects on COVID-19, including critically important information on hospitalizations that have been broken down by age, race, and vaccination status.
The Times asked various CDC spokespeople and officials why the data were kept hidden from the public, when the information could have been helpful to doctors treating COVID patients.
Spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund responded, “because basically, at the end of the day, it’s not yet ready for prime time,” and the agency could not be sure the data were “accurate and actionable.”
Nordlund added, however, CDC also feared the information might be “misinterpreted,” as the Times reported.
CDC Deputy Director for Public Health, Science, and Surveillance Dr. Daniel Jernigan told the Times the technology at the nation’s largest health agency is outdated.
The CDC’s multiple layers of bureaucracy were also given as a reason important data could not be released to the American public in a timely fashion. Such a release would require sign-off by the Department of Health and Human Services and, ultimately, the White House.
According to the Times, some outside public health officials were extremely unhappy to learn of the hidden data.
“We have been begging for that sort of granularity of data for two years,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist and part of the team that ran the independent Covid Tracking Project.
Asked about CDC’s Nordlund’s concern regarding “misinterpretation” of the data, Rivera responded, “We are at a much greater risk of misinterpreting the data with data vacuums, than sharing the data with proper science, communication and caveats.”
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, said when CDC would not respond to inquiries about an estimate on whether an individual infected with COVID-19 is contagious five days after symptoms begin, she finally found the answer from an article in the New York Times in December.
“They’ve known this for over a year and a half, right, and they haven’t told us,” she said. “I mean, you can’t find out anything from them.”
Meanwhile, internal emails from CDC, obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT), found the health agency “forged ahead and crafted pandemic policy based on poor data – even after they’ve been warned old and out-of-date research was being used to support their guidelines,” Caitlin Sutherland, APT executive director, told Fox News in a report published Friday.
The report cited one email from Fauci to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, dated February 20, 2021, in which Fauci sent her a link to an article at STAT, along with the statement:
Rochelle: You probably have already seen this. But just in case, you should be aware of it.
Fox News continued Fauci emphasized several sections of the article that suggested CDC’s guidance that students should be six feet apart for in-person learning “aren’t supported by science.”
The report noted:
Another section Fauci highlighted said guidance for students to stay 6 feet apart appeared “to be based on decades-old research.” Yet another flagged sentence said the CDC guidelines “will work to provide political cover for interest groups and districts that want to delay in-person school.”
“First, the CDC allowed teachers’ unions to write the guidance on school reopenings, and now we just learned the CDC isn’t publishing large portions of the COVID data it collects,” APT’s Sutherland told Fox News.
In his CBS Mornings interview last month, Jha said, “We are not anywhere near the end of the pandemic,” and that “there isn’t a single point where the pandemic is over.”
Biden’s next COVID czar, after all, has to implement his boss’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan which the White House released right after Biden quietly extended the national COVID emergency indefinitely on February 18.
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