‘The World Paid the Price’: Biden’s Outgoing Covid Czar Jeffrey Zients Rebuked Over Failures

Yves here. On the one hand, we think it’s important that as many people as possible pile on to criticize the sorry record of Jeffrey Zients as Covid czar. However, the “czar” post in American politics is usually a poisoned chalice, even before getting to the fact that term will like be retired because Russia.

While this site has attempted to be on the forefront of Covid reporting on the actual science (versus “the science”) and policy fronts, we never pretended to have policy influence. By contrast, one has to wonder where these vocal Zients critics have been all this time.

Lambert confirms that (with all due respect to Justice is Global) there has only the most muted and indirect criticism of Zients while in office, and even then not by anyone with clout.

And we are only going from bad to worse, with the downtrade to Brown’s Dr. Ashish K. Jha no doubt reflecting the official Administration posture that Covid is over. As IM Doc said by e-mail:

We have now replaced a lying corrupt Bond villain with a moronic cipher.

I cannot remember a single thing this man has been correct about.

And I will always remember the glee with which he pounced on the unvaxxed.

This is really bad news.

And KLG:

Indeed. He has struck me as a bag of wind since the beginning. Glad to know I was correct.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

Progressives on Thursday welcomed the announcement that Jeffrey Zients will step down as White House Covid-19 czar, with the head of a leading consumer advocacy group accusing him of failing the world by refusing to “challenge Big Pharma’s monopoly control” over lifesaving vaccines.

The New York Times reports Zients, a former corporate executive and director of the National Economic Council, will be replaced next month as White House coronavirus coordinator by Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing internist.

Zients has been the target of numerous protests by activists, some of whom called for his termination over his lack of scientific and medical experience, his record as a private equity executive, and his failure to take on Big Pharma during the pandemic.

“Jeff Zients failed and the world paid the price,” Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday.

Johanna Kichton of People’s Action—whose Justice is Global project staged multiple demonstrations against Zients—said that he:

  • Dissuaded governors from issuing mask mandates during the current Covid-19 surge;
  • Killed the White House’s own [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulation that would have provided paid quarantine and isolation for most U.S. workers;
  • Failed to address massive shortages of affordable rapid tests and KN95 [masks]; and
  • Led the White House’s insufficient approach towards addressing inequitable vaccine access globally by prioritizing corporate handouts and donations.

“All of these policies directly led to the current omicron surge and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and infections, in the U.S. and around the world,” said Kichton.

Public Citizen’s Weissman said that “despite promises that the U.S. would be a ‘vaccine arsenal’ for the world, the United States and rich countries refused to share vaccine technology with developing countries and failed to deliver sufficient vaccines.”

“The vaccination rate among low-income countries is 14%—about one-sixth the rate in rich nations,” he added. “And even those data disguise the extent to which people in poorer countries are receiving less efficacious vaccines.”

Weissman continued:

Zients refused to pay appropriate attention to global solutions to the global pandemic, because of political concerns or otherwise. And the Zients-led Covid response refused to challenge Big Pharma’s monopoly control, in the U.S. and globally, over technologies that relied crucially on public support. As a result, the United States and other rich countries failed to expand vaccine supply sufficient to meet global need.

“Responsibility for this failure is widely shared among nations, but the United States has a singular leadership role in global health; it has unique capacities and thus responsibilities, and a special duty to lead the world’s response,” he added. “Under the leadership of Covid coordinator Jeff Zients, the United States failed.”

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Thursday called Jha “an excellent choice” and a “highly qualified public health advocate who will lead with reason and compassion.”

Weissman said that Jha “will face major challenges as he takes the helm of the U.S. Covid response, including a misguided perception that the ‘pandemic is behind us.'”

“As a seasoned public health expert and advocate, we look to Dr. Jha to lead the White House effort to fight the worldwide pandemic with far more vision and ambition than his predecessor,” he added.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. anon y'mouse

    putting all of the focus on getting this or that particular guy out is how they reduce focus on what is actually being done.

    it’s “Manchin is the bad guy. if we just change him out things will be swell”.

    ditto for any president, every 4 years like clockwork while the country continues it’s neolib and neocon course.

    these people aren’t doing these things as autocrats, and likely didn’t come up with their “do nothing but PR” plans. yet again, the puppeteers are in the shadows and getting everything they want with zero negative fallout.

    all the cheer over removing one puppet, when the powers-that-be have innumberable in their employ to take his place and continue on with their plans, is disappointing. don’t people learn?

    1. Maritimer

      “all the cheer over removing one puppet, when the powers-that-be have innumberable in their employ to take his place and continue on with their plans, is disappointing. don’t people learn?”
      These people are all fungible. Get rid of one of them, five waiting to move into the job. See WEF Global Leaders and Shapers programs.

      Forget individuals, fight the Institutions themselves.

    2. Jon Cloke

      Exactly. Manchin isn’t an anonymity, he’s the next ‘evil’ scapegoat in a decades-long line of them which have covered the way the Dems became hopelessly, inevitably corrupt as the GOP internalizes fascism…

  2. JBird4049

    So, things are looking up?

    If there is ever again honest and effective national government, would many of the people in government today be prosecuted for murder? The only reason, I believe, that former governor Andrew Cuomo is not facing murder charges for his nursing homes deaths is because that would mean that others in government could be prosecuted as well.

    Jeffrey Zients will only face nasty language even though he effectively killed people and now he is being replaced with something similar. This untouchability of our elites is why they are so corrupt and stupid as well as why they are allowed to play their games on the screen. Nobody is allowed to say how lethally inane they are. Like poisonous cotton candy.

    I honestly have no faith anymore in my county and state, and our federal government. It is like looking at recursive animatronic puppets just saying whatever the puppeteers program them to say, no thinking required, and forget about actually doing anything good or bad.

    Maybe we need an updated, Americanized versions of the movies Brazil and Wag the Dog. Could anyone make a movie combining both plots?

    1. Art_DogCT

      Charges of depraved indifference to human life and/or negligent homicide would fare better at trial I think, since so many will appeal to higher authority as justification for what they did or didn’t do. We sadly lack a statute that would address crimes against the citizenry, something akin to crimes against humanity in international law. (I know, all the commentariat is laughing at the notion that anyone with any authority in the US would ever face an accounting. Always a giggle when you’re living in the time of monsters, eh?)

    2. antidlc

      I wouldn’t say “things are looking up”.

      My post from yesterday:

      So Jha is the new covid response guy.

      Check this out:
      CDC announces the new mask guidelines on Feb. 25:

      On the SAME DAY, an opinion piece by Jha appears in the NY Times:
      We’ve Entered a New Phase of the Pandemic. It’s Time for New Metrics.

      If the opinion piece appeared on Feb. 25, then Jha would have submitted it prior to Feb. 25, the date of publication. So…he knew about the guidelines ahead of time, right?

      (h/t to Justin Feldman)

      Anyone find it weird that a public health dean wrote about these policies approvingly before they were even announced (given the publishing timeline) and then administration officials highlight it as evidence their own policies are supported by the scientific community?

      Also posted yesterday:

      What you need to know about Jha…

      Great thread by Justin Feldman:

      1. Guild Navigator

        Sweet find! Albright-Stonebridge (whatever they do, privatizing public infrastructure as in their fine work in Kosovo), stonewalling waiving mRNA IP for COVID vaccines (protecting corporate/PHARM profits) to jumpstart vaccine production for the developing world. So Jha is Corn Pop’s new COVID-19 bagman. Gross!

    3. Guild Navigator

      Why would someone with Zients CV have been considered to manage the response to a pandemic in the first place? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Zients I see nothing there that screams training in public health or epidemiology-related. Truly “Brownie”-level cluster[familyblog]. Jha at least has the Ivy credentials and background, for what those are worth. I haven’t dug around any deeper.

    4. Henry Moon Pie

      “It is like looking at recursive animatronic puppets just saying whatever the puppeteers program them to say”

      I fully second all you say, JBird, and add only this video of a song I used to listen to on “John Boy and Billy” in the morning going to work way down South. (video)

    5. Tom Stone

      Things ARE looking up, not only will a Nuclear Winter do a great deal to counteract global warming it will also significantly reduce human overpopulation.
      It’s a Win/Win!

    6. drumlin woodchuckles

      Here in my state of Michigan, Governor Whitmer made a good hard effort to keep counter-covid safeguards up. Spiteful hateful displays of armed gun-waving “resistance” have fixed it so that neither she nor any other governor will try establishing counter-epidemic safeguards ever again, no matter what the disease.

      So reality-based people will have to try keeping track of new disease developments as best they can and protect themselves and eachother as best they can. May the Darwin be with us!

      As to covid itself, now that the FedGov has “dropped the mask” , so to speak ( heh heh . . . ) and revealed itself as having the goal of deliberately spreading covid to every person in America on purpose, WEARing the mask will become a symbol of oppositional defiance to the government spread-covid-on-purpose conspiracy.

      And if a ” no mask freedom rebel” asks us why we wear the mask, perhaps we can use Q-anon type conspiracy language to express our own conspiracy concerns . . . . concerns which never occurred to the MAGA Trumpanons.

      1. Jeff

        As opposed to wearing the mask meaning compliance and obedience.

        Look at what they’ve done. It’s easy to keep the grift going if you’re at my throat and vice versa. Maybe you and I aren’t the problem.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Not-wearing-the-mask means compliance and obedience to the MAGA Trumpanons coming from the right, and compliance and obedience to the WHO-CDC-WEF-PMC conspiracy to spread covid everywhere coming from above.

          I will not obey commands from either group of people, nor comply with their wishes that I not-wear-the-mask.

          Let others collect their Herman Cain Awards, and let Darwin decide who is reality-based and who is not.

  3. GeoCrackr

    I wish people would get over this passive voice fixation – it’s not “failure” if they deliberately refuse to do what they should do!

    1. steve

      I keep hoping that more will come to the realization that the “failures” are but an excuse to explain away their deliberate malice and the truly dangerous monsters of the world are dressed in suit and tie.

  4. TomDority

    Well gee wiz. Instead of looking at the massive failure that 20 years of war has been and instead talk about how bad the pull out was. Instead of looking at the congressional dereliction of duty that both parties undertook by which Article I of the Constitution clearly gives Congress, not the president, the “power… to declare War.” Given that congress could have declared an emergency to allow the knowledge, process and facilities to produce vaccines on global level. Instead of bailing out the people, congress bailed the criminogenic financial institutions.
    So of course… to hide incompetence and corruption in the legislatures and duck any accountability – of course they are going to go all out to finger point at some appointee (mabye that’s the root of the word appointee-lol)
    Give a tough topic like daylight savings time or jabbing some unpopular hornets nest to prove their machismo – well they all on it like flies on sh$t – just as long as they can point to a dog to blame.
    I mean really – is our nation become a narcissist who never takes the blame for her own messes and international crime against humanity or any other malfeasance you can name — instead of the buck stopping at congress – the buck always passes.
    It’s like buying a “I support my local police” sign with out realizing that they get paid with uni benefits by your tax dollars — same goes for Ukraine – donate to support them – already am through taxes and high prices. If you aint part of the 5% or even the 1% you are paying through the nose for all the essentials….housing, food, health, and turning the heat up on the kettle we sit in.
    So yea – of course we blame something else besides our own folly….it’s evolved to be in our self centered DNA – it ain’t me it’s over their or something else type of thinking.
    The way we act now… it is amazing that mankind did achieve great things – I do not believe that now…we all to busy flinging crap at each other to pull each other out of the pit — like one of Dante’s paintings where everybody is stepping on everybody else to get out

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I am offended at the use of “we”. I protested the War in Iraq. Lambert blogged almost daily against it, before and after. Did you engage in any visible opposition?

      1. TomDority

        No offense intended — was in DC to protest War in Iraq – wrote my congress man.
        The sometimes majority that our elected refuse to listen to –
        the ‘we’ where the humanity “we” end up despite long struggle and long hard lessons of history.
        The “we” that do all they can to stop, the “we” that is patriotic in duty to always question, to dissent, to endure and fight for peoples rights, for diplomacy and peace over war, for decency …. I am all for that ‘we’. I am, however, frustrated and sick over the hypocrisy, greed, destruction, war and our planets sixth extinction event caused by the ‘we’ that is the human race. That ‘we’ (human race) did not intended or want or control what ‘we’ have but “we” are humans on a tide led by the very few who have control and capacity to determine a future.
        I apologize for offending you – I am almost broken by 20 years of war, 30 years of finacialization, 40 years of American prejudice (ignorance) directed at any non-white and any foreigner with a now resurgent white supremist -neo nazi – slaveowner slant. On top of that is floating noise of the proposterous limited nuclear exchange
        I know I need to keep fighting the good fight and all but I just let the negative overwhelm me – sorry

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          “We” is the obsolete language used by people showing how proud they are of how guilty they can feel about this or that. And the language infects people who would understand that they have nothing to feel guilty about if they take the time to think about who perpetrated and arranged the bad things.

          We . . . We . . . We . . .

          ” ‘We’ ? Us. Or us not. There is no ‘We’ “.

  5. flora

    Ah, Jeffrey Zients: World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Leaders class of 2003. (I notice trend among these WEF “leaders”: they seem bad at leading in terms of organizing good results for the citizens of the countries they’re in. They talk a good game, however. See also for example: Mayo Pete (not) managing US transportation snarls during the supply line transportation snafu. )

    1. redleg

      These people are leading alright, but aren’t leading for the benefit of anyone but their funders. Any benefits that might trickle down to the masses are unintentional and won’t happen twice.

    2. Waking Up

      A significant part of these positions are about resume building and meritocracy. That so many have “failed upward” is rarely discussed.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      I wonder if the WEF leaders are attempting to put their brand on every rising young up-and-comer, in the spirit of backing every horse.

      1. RonR

        Good question. I was surprised to hear that Trudeau is in their clutches. I wonder how/when that happened.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well . . . is he really even in their clutches? Or is he just another calf that got branded with the WEF brand out on the range? Is he just another horse they are backing in case he turns out to be one of the right horses?

          We need ” anti-leaders” in the spirit of “anti-heroes”. We need to have or be the kind of people the WEF would never ever bet on even just in case. What would a ” no WEF” brand look like? The letters ” WEF” with the universal circle-slash symbol super-imposed over them?

          I am fun-loving enough that if the WEF thought it could make a just-in-case bet on me , I would accept their free invention to a portal-to-portal all expenses paid trip to their lovely Davos resort complete with everything. All the caviar I could eat and all the champagne I could drink.

          And then come back home and have even more fun being a bad bet and a horse they should not even have bothered to back.

          But alas, I will never be that famous and important. No free vacation to Davos and back home for me, I’m afraid.

  6. JBird4049

    >>> they seem bad at leading in terms of organizing good results for the citizens of the countries they’re in.

    That is just it. Much of modern civilization requires the well educated, but much of anything, including civilization just requires some will, a willingness to listen and learn, common sense, and to repeatedly try until a fix is found. Somethings like transportation planning or the sewage system, or good policing, even good governance could really use a good education, but no genius, no Ph.d, no needing to know Urdu. But we have all these college graduates with degrees in bullpucky, aka propaganda, and not, as a classical education or perhaps even a good degree in English or philosophy would teach, how to think. They try to run the world the same facile way they think and the world is not that simple.

    I would guess at least half the American, adult population could do better than the those credential fools. They are unlikely to do worse. However, they would do better at running the agencies and organizations that are supposed to fight the epidemic, not in giving pillaging opportunities to the elites.

    Thinking on it, the Professional Managerial Class is good at organizing good results for the elites who often do not seem to have any nation to call home. Those who have place, at least in their hearts or souls, that is home are being destroyed by the rootless. It is like being led by a swarm of locusts. Extreme free market, open borders, unregulated capitalism that eats anything solid, anything that we all need to survive because profits, which is being run by the PMC.

  7. William Hunter Duncan

    I’m assuming the new guy, like Zients, will not discuss allowing Ivermectin, hydroxychloruquine, etc, the rise in excess deaths, or those who have been harmed by the vaccines, or why kids and the healthy need to be vaccinated?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Bingo. I was about to leap all over this post due to the lack of mention of early treatments. Thank you, William, for beating me to it, and for mentioning that certain drug.

      I’ll go get mad at something else now.

      1. William Hunter Duncan

        What if I said, based on Covid Policy ongoing, the idea is, we will be fully vaccinated with a very long list of mRNA vaccines, with a phone to use as a connection to a digital social income to use at any official outlet of the Market?

      2. JBird4049

        >>>I’ll go get mad at something else now.

        So much madness and and so little time.

        When I around twenty, I realized that no matter how old I ever got, I would never have the time to read what already existed and which I would want to read, never mind the new books constantly being written; how could I live with the cruelty of never having enough time to read, like that poor teller in The Twilight Zone? Yeah, first world problems, but books people, books! A whirligig of mental and emotional distress.

        Is the Perpetual Outrage Machine supposed to create such a level of insanity that we no longer can think? While books and libraries gave me sanity, I only burnout from the continuous delivery of outrage. It’s mighty convenient for people who do not want see the world is about to melt or all those homeless people in the city that they supposedly represent. Nooo, let’s be outraged by Vladimir Putin and not by the 140,000 (officially) homeless Californians or that my Mom had to be evacuated three times from the fires. In a town that had not been threatened by fires in like over a century.

        We are all so outraged by all the outrageous stuff, but are we all outraged by the right stuff? I mean getting outraged by the Azov Battalion is understandable, but policing in the United States is well infested with alt-right, pro fascist, bigoted, murderous, and corrupt cops on this side of the Atlantic. There are police and sheriff deputies who celebrate their first murder in California. One of the departments is around an hour drive from me.

        So, the Azov Battalion you say?

  8. Lex

    Same as its been since the beginning. The federal government promulgates a standard for emergency response situations. (originally developed by the US Forest Service) And those standards are fully adopted by state, local and private organizations. The emergency response procedures work, and I say that as someone who has participated in many when significant threat to human life and health are present. I’ve participated as technical lead, incident commander, etc. I’ve been trying to figure out why two consecutive administrations would approach Covid in a manner that completely ignores both the letter and the spirit of emergency response playbook. I’ve finally given up.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Oh, brother. Here I am again. And I’ve found that something else to get mad at.

      Back in the day, I took Community Emergency Response Team training. During the past two years, I’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting for the CERT call to service. It never came.

      If nothing else, we could have been asked to check on our elderly and vulnerable neighbors.


  9. JohnnyGL

    Matt Stoller was the only one i saw regularly criticizing biden’s covid team, and zients specifically.

  10. VietnamVet

    The Washington Post blames Americans for their hostility to public health workers who are “being targeted with personal threats, doxing, or vandalism”. Corporate media and the professional corporate-state medical establishment, such as Dr. Ashish Jha, use a pleasant voice, a smile, and ingrained superiority to spread propaganda that the mRNA vaccines are safe and effective and to scapegoat the unvaccinated for almost a million Americans dead with COVID-19. The unwillingness to spend the money and resources to restore the U.S. public health system prevented the implementation of mitigations that China and Taiwan are using successfully to control coronavirus. Americans have every right to be angry.

  11. antidlc


    ‘Stealth’ COVID Variant Spreading Faster in NY Than US, CDC Says: What to Know About BA.2

    According to the CDC, that variant accounts for 39% of COVID circulating in New York and New Jersey right now. By comparison, it’s responsible for about a quarter of new infections nationally. Its prevalence has doubled in just the last week or so.

    So how worried should you be? Not much, experts say.

    On Friday, the Biden administration’s incoming COVID czar Dr. Ashish Jha said he wasn’t expecting the latest variant to trigger yet another national surge in infections, given the overwhelming prevalence of those vaccinated and boosted.

    Well, we’ll see about that.

    1. Tempestteacup

      He’s settling seamlessly into his new role, although based on his endless media appearances and the soporifics he reliably offered up, he has been auditioning for some time:

      “On March 19, 2021, as COVID-19 cases were rising across Europe, Dr. Jha stated on NBC News, “We’re not going to have another Europe on our hands. We’re not going to have a fourth surge.” Shortly thereafter, on April 7, 2021, Jha co-wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post with Monica Gandhi, in which they claimed, “There is no doubt that vaccines will help bring an end to the acute, emergency phase of this pandemic and usher us into endemicity, which is when covid-19 would be like any other respiratory infection that we could live with.”

      (More here: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/03/18/ashi-m18.html)

      Still, I might sound complacent and speak in honeyed tones if my new high falutin’ Federal job, along with the endless media coverage that goes with it boosting future lucrative advisory roles, had an ability to do nothing at all times as a key requirement. On the other hand, not being a malignant corporate bagman immune to human suffering, I might not.

  12. Chris

    ‘Most medical collection debt is about to fall off of consumer credit reports’.
    Of course it is.
    It’s hindering the parasites ability to suck the last debt marrow out of the Precariat skeletons by issuing new credit at higher interest rates.

    No Fly Zone = You Fry in Home.

  13. Herb

    The single most important and simplest way to end this damn pandemic is to select those simple natural treatments that show so much progress but cannot get funded for proper trials.

    Here’s one example zinc lozenges. A retrospective trial of 28 patients everyone of whom with symptomatic Covid all improved on average two days after they started taking the lozenges and all but one were symptom-free after 10 days. How hard would it be to organize a trial of a couple hundred people with a substance so cheap it costs pennies a tablet. Anytime I’m going somewhere where there’s a significant risk of exposure I take l these before and after. I can’t prove its protective but its highly likely to be.

    I hate to be hyperbolic but I have to call The systematic demonization of anything simple and natural as either malignant neglect or benign genocide or something like that.


  14. Jack Parsons

    I have come to believe that they did the only thing they could: promote vaccines.

    Here’s the problem: the leader -> to -> person “idea channel” that they had available is big enough for only one mitigation. Only one. They tried to stuff masks in and then both masks and vaccines, and the channel was only big enough for one mitigation, so they chose the mitigation that requires you to do something once.

    This sounds weirdly bleak, but I’ve come around to thinking that’s how this situation works.

Comments are closed.