President Joe Biden announced on Friday his decision to appoint Mandy Cohen, who oversaw strict COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina, as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organizations and a proven track record protecting Americans’ health and safety,” Biden said.

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Cohen served as the chief operating officer and chief of staff of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration before becoming the director of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in which she instituted some of the country’s strictest COVID-19 lockdown policies.

CDC Director
Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen speaks during a briefing on the state’s coronavirus pandemic response Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at the N.C. Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C.

(Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, File)


Current CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who will be leaving her position at the end of this month, said she “can think of no better hands in which to leave this agency during a critical time in its history.”

“Her unique experience and accomplished tenure in North Carolina — along with her other career contributions — make her perfectly suited to lead CDC as it moves forward by building on the lessons learned from COVID-19 to create an organization poised to meet public health challenges of the future,” Walensky said.

Ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Bill Cassidy (R-LA), said that a “culture change” is desperately needed at the CDC “and Mandy Cohen needs to show quickly that she is up to the task.”

“It’s not going to happen over Zoom. We need a leader, in person in Atlanta, who understands public health and is independent from political interests,” Cassidy said.

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Earlier this week, the chairman of the HELP Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), threatened to block all presidential appointments for health positions until the administration addressed rising prescription drug prices. The director of the CDC, however, does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.

“Dr. Cohen has been recognized by leaders from both parties for her ability [to] find common ground and put complex policy into action,” Biden added. “I look forward to working with Dr. Cohen as she leads our nation’s finest scientists and public health experts with integrity and transparency.”


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