Jeff Zients to Leave as Biden’s Covid Czar and Be Replaced by Ashish Jha
When transportation became a barrier to vaccinations
Mr. Zients persuaded Uber and Lyft executives to offer free rides, said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who has advised the White House on racial equality. When lack of childcare and vacation time became barriers. He convinced kindergartens to offer free care and companies to provide free time.
“I could call him any time of the day or night and say, ‘This is a problem that we need to solve,'” she said. “Jeff’s job all day was to fix this problem.”
Critics say Mr. Zients, who made his fortune starting and bringing two consulting companies to market, was an odd candidate to lead the pandemic response given his lack of public health experience. But his previous jobs have been in health care, both as executive director of the Company’s Advisory Board, a health consulting company, and in the Obama administration, where he led efforts to fix the health.gov website.
During a surge in cases – and deaths – this winter, some accused Mr. Zients of not doing enough to prevent them, especially when the highly contagious variant of Omicron took the administration by surprise. Some of Mr. Biden’s supporters, especially the Democrats on the left, openly despised both Mr. Zients and Mr. Klein.
“We wanted it to be like a scientific operation; it operates as a management consulting company,” Gregg Gonsalves, a longtime AIDS activist and epidemiologist at Yale University, said in an interview in January. “Ron Klein and Jeff Zients are not the kinds of people who should be where the dollar stops at this.”
In January, the liberal website The American Prospect published an article titled “Fire Jeff Zients“, which said that he “has proved he is not up to the task, and Biden should relieve him of his duties.”
Mr. Zients could not always look around the corner. In June, he declared that the nation “entry into the summer of joy, the summer of freedom shortly after the Delta variant hit India and when it hit Britain. When it spread to the United States over the summer, cases and deaths skyrocketed.