WASHINGTON — President Biden named a veteran emergency response official on Tuesday to manage the US government’s handling of the monkeypox outbreak as some of the nation’s largest states declare states of emergency.
The official, Robert Fenton, a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and twice its acting head, will serve as the White House monkeypox coordinator. Beside him, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Division of HIV Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will serve as his deputy.
An early-morning statement issued by the White House said that the two men would be charged with overseeing the effort “to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments.”
mr. Biden had come under pressure to name someone with presidential backing to lead the response as cases continue to spread, particularly in the LGBTQ community.
The appointments came a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom of California declared a state of emergency to help address the monkeypox outbreak there. New York and Illinois have made similar declarations, as have the mayors of New York City and San Francisco.
The CDC has recorded nearly 6,000 cases of monkeypox since May, with nearly half in those three large states. No deaths have been reported so far — monkeypox is rarely fatal — but the virus can lead to intense pain. It is spread primarily through prolonged physical contact.
The Biden administration has not declared a state of emergency, even though the World Health Organization did so late last month, but Xavier Becerra, the US secretary of health and human services, is considering it.
The White House said that 737,000 more vaccines were shipped out on Monday, bringing the total number of distributed doses to 1.1 million.
“It’s very important as we’re trying to really have an aggressive approach to dealing with monkeypox,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. She added that 80,000 tests were being conducted per week. “That’s another important, significant way of making sure that people are getting tested so they know if they have monkeypox or not,” she noted.
The two officials installed by Mr. Biden on Tuesday morning has wide experience. mr. Fenton, who oversees the American West for FEMA, has managed responses to natural disasters, disease outbreaks and humanitarian operations and twice served as the agency’s acting administrator.
Dr. Daskalakis is known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LBGTQ community, having previously led infectious-disease management for New York City, including its response to Covid-19.
“Bob Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis are proven, effective leaders that will lead a whole of government effort to implement President Biden’s comprehensive monkeypox response strategy with the urgency that this outbreak warrants,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said in the White House statement.