As Flu Hits, Health Spots Empty

The lights may be on at the Department of Health and Human Services — but nobody’s home. As the nation gears up to fight swine flu—20 cases have now been confirmed—there are major vacancies in the administration. There's been no replacement as HHS secretary since Tom Daschle withdrew, and 19 other spots in the department remain vacant: The administration hopes that HHS-secretary designate Kathleen Sebelius could be confirmed as early as Tuesday; Obama has yet to appoint a CDC chief; and his FDA appointee has yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, others have stepped up to the plate: acting CDC director Richard Bresser and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the emergency declaration yesterday. “I wish we could call it a declaration of emergency preparedness,” Napolitano said. But according to press secretary Robert Gibbs, the lack of staff doesn’t mean a lack of preparedness: “I want to be very clear here: There is a team in place. Part of it is standing behind me."