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Biden to pick Zients as his next chief of staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to name Jeff Zients, who ran the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of Biden’s term, as his next chief of staff, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Biden’s current top aide, Ron Klain, is preparing to leave the job in the coming weeks.

Since serving as COVID-19 response coordinator, Zients has returned to the White House in a low-profile position to work on staffing matters for the remainder of Biden’s first term.

The two people familiar with the matter were not authorized to publicly discuss Biden’s plans before an official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Washington Post first reported on Zients’ expected appointment. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Zients, vice chairman of Biden’s transition operation after his November 2020 election, brings significant managerial expertise in government and the private sector. He was the director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

He became known for leading that administration’s effort to repair HealthCare.gov after the bungled initial rollout of the site in the fall of 2013. Zients also was a top executive at the Advisory Board Company, a Washington consulting firm.

Zients and his deputy on the White House’s pandemic response team, Natalie Quillian, left the Biden administration last April. Biden thanked him for “stunning” and “consequential” progress battling the pandemic.

“When Jeff took this job, less than 1% of Americans were fully vaccinated; fewer than half our schools were open; and unlike much of the developed world, America lacked any at-home COVID tests,” Biden said when the White House announced Zients’ departure. “Today, almost 80% of adults are fully vaccinated; over 100 million are boosted; virtually every school is open; and hundreds of millions of at-home tests are distributed every month.”

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Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, contributed to this report.

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