White House launches new pandemic office headed by retired general

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Friday launched an office to prepare for and respond to potential pandemics, which will be headed by Paul Friedrichs, a military combat surgeon and retired Air Force major general who helped lead the Pentagon’s COVID response.

The new Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy will also take over the functions of President Joe Biden’s current COVID-19 and mpox response teams, the White House has said.

The office will be responsible for “directing, coordinating, and implementing actions related to preparedness for and response to known and unknown biological threats or pathogens that could lead to a pandemic or significant public health-related disruption in the United States,” its statement said.

Biden announced that Friedrichs would be the office’s first director. Friedrichs is currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the White House National Security Council.

The White House was expected to reduce its COVID response team after the US government ended its COVID public health emergency in May. Biden said in September last year that he believed the coronavirus pandemic was over in the United States.

In June, the White House announced the departure of Ashish Jha, the last of the Biden administration’s rotating COVID response coordinators.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Alison Williams)

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