Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has named a respected physician who opposes blanket vaccine mandates and downplayed the threat of the coronavirus to children as his lead adviser on pandemic response.
The choice of Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins surgeon and Fox contributor, signals that Youngkin, a Republican, will upend outgoing Democratic governor and pediatric neurologist Ralph Northam’s approach to public policy at a critical time in the pandemic, political science and health experts say.
Makary will probably have influence over how Youngkin handles vaccine mandates for health-care workers as well as K-12 schools and public colleges and universities – policies the governor rejected on the campaign trail – potentially leaving Virginia an outlier in the region.
Makary’s nomination came days before Youngkin’s inauguration on Saturday as the 74th governor of Virginia, amid a flurry of announcements that – like the new governor’s campaign team – include a mix of movement conservatives and establishment stalwarts.
“A number of appointments play to the very conservative wing of the party, which in and of itself is not unexpected. This guy did not run to be the next Larry Hogan. He ran with broad base of support, the Trump wing and the Republican establishment,” said Mark Rozell, the dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
He nominated Richard Cullen, the uber-connected former chairman of the legal and lobbying giant McGuireWoods and former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general, as his counselor, a top policy and legal post. Youngkin also tapped nominated Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who was President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, as his secretary of natural resources; and Kay Coles James, former president of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank, as the next secretary of the commonwealth.
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While Makary serves Younkin’s political needs and is compatible with the views the governor has shared, Rozell wondered if the appointment is the best interest of public health and science.
“He will be giving critical advice at a very critical time of the pandemic spread,” he said.
More than 29,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia in the nearly two years since the coronavirus was first detected. State and local officials have deployed an evolving patchwork of policies amid fluctuating infection rates, which have been sharply on the rise for weeks due to the omicron variant.
Makary is chief of islet transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins and a professor at the Hopkins School of edicine and in the business school, where his research focuses on public health policy, vulnerable populations, disparities in health care and health-care costs, according to his official bio.
He is a Thomas Jefferson University-educated physician who completed his residency in surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Medical Center. He has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine and is the author of several books, including “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care-and How to Fix It.”Leana Wen, an emergency medicine physician and public health professor at […]