Gov. Baker Announces COVID-19 Advisory Group Members

BOSTON (State House News Service) — The man who pioneered the effort to sequence the human genome, the head of Mass. General Hospital's Center for Disaster Medicine, and a former head of the Food and Drug Administration are among those tapped to serve as advisors to the state's Coronavirus Response Command Center.

On day 16 of the state of emergency in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker's office announced Wednesday morning that it had formed a COVID-19 Advisory Board that will provide expert input "on key decision points in the state's response, including expanding access to testing and planning for medical surge." The group first met last week and is expected to formally meet once a week for updates.

The advisory group includes Scott Gottlieb, who served as commissioner of the FDA from 2017 until April 2019 and now is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributor to CNBC. Baker's office said Gottlieb focuses on "improving public health through entrepreneurship and medical innovation and on expanding regulatory approaches to maintain patient and physician autonomy."

The governor also tapped Eric Lander, the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to serve on the advisory group. Lander helped lead the Human Genome Project, which undertook a successful effort in the 1990s to map the DNA sequence of the entire human genome.

Two medical experts from Mass. General Hospital will also serve on the panel: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a practicing infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Dr. Paul Biddinger, the MGH endowed chair in emergency preparedness and the director of the Center for Disaster Medicine.

Also advising the Coronavirus Response Command Center is Dr. Michael Wagner, who serves as interim CEO and chief physician executive of Wellforce, which Baker's office described as "a $2B and growing health system in Eastern Massachusetts that has been recognized for its high quality, lower cost value position and its commitment to keeping care in the community."

Baker announced March 14 that he was standing up a COVID-19 command center and put Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders in charge of the state's pandemic response. Medicaid Director and Assistant Secretary Dan Tsai has assumed day-to-day responsibilities at the top of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services while Sudders focuses on the coronavirus.

After announcing that it had formed and convened a meeting of the advisory group last week, Baker's office announced Wednesday morning that the governor, lieutenant governor and Sudders will meet with the advisory board Wednesday at 2 p.m., followed by a 3:30 p.m. press conference from the State House.

by Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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