Who’s on the U.S. Coronavirus Task Force

Who’s on the U.S. Coronavirus Task Force

President Trump formed a coronavirus task force in late January, and members have been meeting regularly. But as the virus began to spread around the globe and infections were confirmed in the United States, Mr. Trump named Vice President Mike Pence as his point person at the end of February, and more administration officials were added to the panel. Among them are internationally known AIDS experts; a former drug executive; infectious disease doctors; and the former attorney general of Virginia.

The new coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, also holds the rank of ambassador as the State Department’s global AIDS director.

An experienced scientist and physician, Dr. Birx will report to Vice President Pence, though White House officials did not specify how her duties will differ from those of Mr. Pence or Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services who is the chairman of the nation’s coronavirus task force.

Nominated by President Obama in 2014 to the State post, Dr. Birx has spent more than three decades working on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research and global health. For the past six years, Dr. Birx, a former Army colonel, has been in charge of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and America’s participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. From 2005 to 2014, she also was director of the division for Global HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A biography distributed by the White House said she had “developed and patented vaccines, including leading one of the most influential HIV vaccine trials in history.”

During her confirmation hearing in 2014, Dr. Birx spoke with admiration of the government’s ability to come together to confront a deadly disease that threatened the health and welfare of people around the globe.

“The history of the end of the 20th century will be forever recorded with the emergence of a new and deadly viral plague that challenged us scientifically, socially and politically,” she told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Fortunately, that history will also record that — eventually — we faced our own fears of the disease and embraced those infected and affected with the open arms of compassion, creative research and determined solutions.”

Dr. Birx majored in chemistry at Houghton College and received her medical degree from Penn State University’s Hershey School of Medicine.

— Michael Shear

Alex M. Azar II became secretary of health and human services in January 2018, arriving with a background in government and industry and presenting himself as a problem-solving pragmatist.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.