Biden appoints NJ official to virus response team, criticizes vax rollout
TRENTON — A member of Gov. Phil Murphy's cabinet has been appointed to the COVID-19 Response Team of the incoming Biden administration.
Carole Johnson, the commissioner of the state Department of Human Services, will serve as the federal team's testing coordinator, one of nine members that President-elect Joe Biden announced on Tuesday.
In addition to testing, the team will focus on vaccinations and the supply chain.
Biden on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration, saying that its Operation Warp Speed has been too slow.
“As I long feared and warned the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," he said.
Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year. But according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose.
At the current pace, Biden said, “it’s gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
President Donald Trump deflected Biden's critique. “It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government,” he tweeted Tuesday. “We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states.”
Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, said he has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership, to get things back on track."
The president-elect said he would “move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction."
He set a goal of administering 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office, but said to accomplish that, the pace of vaccinations would have to increase five to six times to 1 million shots a day. Even with that pace, however, Biden acknowledged it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated."
Murphy hailed Johnson's appointment, saying on Twitter that she "has been one of our most valuable team members and a leading voice for our most vulnerable residents."
New Jersey's confirmed death toll from the coronavirus stood at 16,832 on Tuesday, with another 2,000 suspected deaths yet to be confirmed. Nationally, the virus has killed more than 336,000 Americans this year.
The state's Department of Human Services is responsible for many health care and social services.
Johnson has previous White House experience, serving on the Domestic Policy Council when the Obama administration responded to the Ebola and Zika viruses.
Johnson has also worked for members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, was a policy director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a health program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts and a senior government relations manager with the American Heart Association.
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