President-elect Joe Biden named Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff on Wednesday – and the longtime Biden aide, who worked as an Obama administration Ebola response coordinator, is on record saying the previous administration handled the H1N1 outbreak poorly.
In a Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Summit hosted in May, 2019, Klain – who was not involved directly in the H1N1 response but was a White House staffer at the time – said “a bunch of really talented” people were working on it, but “did every possible thing wrong.”
“Sixty million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time and it’s just purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Klain said. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right, it just had to do with luck.”
Klain was warning about the possibility that future epidemic outbreaks could have more devastating effects.
The H1N1 influenza virus broke out in the U.S. in 2009 and resulted in about 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is believed that people aged 60 and over had antibodies from a previous flu strain – though younger individuals did not.
A Biden spokesperson did not return Fox News’ request for comment on Klain’s remarks.
The comments come as coronavirus cases throughout the U.S. are on the rise. Biden and other Democrats have largely laid blame on the Trump administration for perceived failures in handling the outbreak – which the president has staunchly defended himself against.
The president-elect has repeatedly pointed to the Obama administration’s dealings with the H1N1 Swine Flu as assurance that he is better equipped to deal with a widespread virus outbreak.
In a statement on Biden’s website, it says that he “knows how to mount an effective crisis response and elevate the voices of scientists, public health experts, and first responders.”
“He helped lead the Obama-Biden Administration’s effective response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and the 2014 Ebola epidemic,” the statement reads.
Regarding the Ebola response, which occurred around 2014, Klain said at an event earlier this year that some “wrong choices” were also made, but added that a logistical framework had been put in place to make the problem solving process easier and more transparent.
Biden has already began assembling a bipartisan taskforce to get to work on strategies to combat the pandemic, which is expected to worsen over the winter months.
Governors throughout many states – including New York and Ohio – announced new restrictions on residents and businesses on Wednesday in attempt to get ahead of the expected surge.