White House names HHS lawyer as new No. 2 COVID official

The White House announced Wednesday that Lisa Barclay, a top Department of Health and Human Services lawyer, is becoming the No. 2 official overseeing the administration’s COVID-19 response.  

Barclay is assuming the role of deputy White House COVID-19 response coordinator, under Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health who started this week as the new coordinator.  

Jha, known for his communications and public health knowledge, does not have extensive experience in government or navigating bureaucracy. Barclay, therefore, a government veteran, could help in those areas.  

The White House touted her experience in a statement.  

“Barclay has served in multiple Administrations, most recently as Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services where she has been instrumental in helping manage the COVID-19 response,” a White House official said. “Barclay brings with her extensive experience working in the Executive branch, helping to develop regulations, guidance and processes at FDA, CDC, and across HHS.” 

Jha and Barclay are taking over for Jeff Zients and Natalie Quillian.  

In addition to her current role at HHS, Barclay served as Food and Drug Administration chief of staff during the Obama administration.  

The new White House team takes over at a time when cases and hospitalizations are at relative lows, but dangers still loom, including a possible rise in cases from the BA.2 subvariant of omicron.  

“We don’t have to let it dictate our lives anymore,” Jha said on MSNBC on Monday. “If you’re vaccinated, boosted, you’re going to be highly protected. We have a lot of therapy now that’s widely available now for people who are at all higher risk, so even if you have a breakthrough infection, you can get treatments. That means that the virus should not control our lives anymore.” 

Tags Ashish Jha COVID-19 pandemic FDA White House COVID-19 Response Team
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