President Biden is working to name a monkeypox coordinator to confront mounting infections and calls from lawmakers and activists for a stepped-up federal response.
White House officials also are deliberating whether to declare a public health emergency over the outbreak to cut red tape and improve data collection, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on the deliberations.
It is not uncommon for the White House to name a “czar” who coordinates the response to major health threats.
Dr. Ashish Jha serves as the COVID-19 coordinator for President Biden and Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, served as the Ebola czar under President Barack Obama.
Deliberations around the monkeypox response are unfolding after the World Health Organization said the spread of the virus in non-endemic countries is a public health emergency of international concern.
The U.S. has recorded 3,500 cases of monkeypox so far. Many of the infections, which feature a painful rash with lesions, have affected men who have sex with men but experts caution that anyone can get the virus and it is likely to spread to other social networks eventually.
LGBT activists and mayors from California to New York have called on the federal government to speed more vaccine doses to their communities and make testing more efficient.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN on Monday that his agency is mulling an emergency declaration because it wants to get ahead of the virus but it is mindful that monkeypox, unlike COVID-19, has not caused any deaths in the U.S.
“We declare public health emergencies based on the data and the science, not on our worries,” he said.