On Friday, President Biden announced his intention to nominate Dr. Mandy Cohen, the former health secretary of North Carolina, to lead the federal agency responsible for overseeing the nation’s public health infrastructure, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
After leading the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) since the beginning of Mr. Biden’s tenure, infectious disease specialist Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky announced last month that she would resign on June 30. Dr. Cohen will take over for Dr. Walensky.
Since Dr. Cohen’s nomination does not need to be confirmed by the Senate, he may take over as director of the C.D.C. immediately once Dr. Walensky stands down. A new law enacted by Congress mandates the confirmation of the agency’s head, although that provision doesn’t take effect until 2025.
Dr. Walensky praised Dr. Cohen in her own statement on Friday, calling him “perfectly suited to lead C.D.C. as it moves forward by building on the lessons learned from Covid-19.”
In May, the federal Covid public health emergency proclamation was allowed to expire by the Biden administration. Dr. Cohen will be in charge of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s new coronavirus monitoring strategy, which will include testing of sewage. She will also oversee a wide range of public health problems confronted by the many hubs of the organisation, such as other infectious disease epidemics and opioid usage.
As the country recovers from a pandemic, the C.D.C. has had to deal with dwindling public trust because of its botched early efforts to test Americans, its acceptance of political interference in its scientific literature, and its provision of what health experts muddled on testing, , and spread of the virus.
A large list of choices had been narrowed down by administration officials in recent weeks, with Dr. Cohen reportedly being the top choice. According to one source acquainted with the search, she was White House Chief of Staff Jeffrey D. Zients’ first pick. Zients served as the Biden administration’s Covid response coordinator.
Dr. Cohen, an internist and CEO at Aledade, is a former senior official at the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services and chief of staff for the Obama administration’s Office of the Actuary of the President.
Former White House official Dr. Ashish K. Jha, who led the Biden administration’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak before leaving this week, praised Dr. Cohen’s exceptionally strong public and private-sector credentials for a C.D.C. leader.
Some public health experts believe that Dr. Cohen’s experience overseeing North Carolina’s Covid-19 response as a political appointee during a time of divided state government could translate to the complexities of running an Atlanta-based agency within Department of Health Services.
“What’s important now with an incoming C.D.C. director is the ability to work with officials in Washington and around the country,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, head of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security.
A number of Republican congressmen wrote to Mr. Biden in opposition to Dr. Cohen’s expected appointment, noting her support for mask regulations and said she had “politicised science.”
Dr. Cohen will continue the work that Dr. Walensky started last year to restructure the agency, which public health professionals believe has been chronically underfunded. This includes efforts to upgrade its data infrastructure and boost its public relations.