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American lives are full of unexpected second acts and if any Fitzgerald reader tells you otherwise, point them to the example of Brian Harrison. Chief of staff to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Harrison has been tasked with handling the agency’s day-to-day coronavirus response despite his short résumé in public health: According to Reuters, prior to joining HHS, he ran a dog-breeding business.
While Harrison’s official HHS biography states that he “ran a small business in Texas” prior to joining the Trump administration in January of 2018, Reuters reports that he was the owner of Dallas Labradoodles. According to the company’s website, he and his family settled on Australian Labradoodles — a mix between Labrador retrievers and poodles — in 2012 “after much research.” Harrison, 37, sold the firm for $225,000 in April of 2018, after he joined HHS.
As a key figure in the department — which oversees all public-health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Harrison has played a critical role in the administration’s response: “Everyone had to report up through him,” an HHS official told Reuters. And there’s been some resentment over his placement in a role for which he wasn’t exactly qualified. According to Reuters, five sources said that officials in the White House — itself run by a uniquely unqualified president — “derisively called him ‘the dog breeder.’”
As the Trump administration employs upmarket dog experts in critical public-health roles, on Tuesday a top vaccine expert, Dr. Rick Bright, was removed from his position as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. “Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright told the New York Times. Though Trump has pushed the anti-malarial drug as a cure-all since late March, he has not mentioned chloroquine in recent days, as a new study shows it could lead to a higher death rate.