A new coronavirus response plan was revealed by the White House on Wednesday, with the goal of turning the corner on what has been described as the biggest public health disaster in a century while simultaneously preparing for the next danger to come.
According to the strategy, which is intended to assist the United States in transitioning to what some see to as a “new normal,” there are four primary objectives: guarding against and treating Covid-19; preparing for additional versions; preventing shutdowns; and combating the virus overseas.
However, there is a significant snag: a significant portion of the proposal is contingent on money from Congress. Congressional officials were recently informed by the administration that it may need as much as $30 billion to maintain the pandemic response effort. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an independent consultant to the White House, said in an interview that the United States needs to spend far more money — on the order of $100 billion over the next year, and billions more after that — in order to be properly prepared.
The plan is being implemented in the wake of the president’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, as new cases in the United States fall, yet fatalities continue to be high. When he spoke, President Biden highlighted one of its most important components: a new “test to treat” campaign, which he described as “allowing Americans to be tested at their local pharmacy and, if they test positive, get free antiviral medications right away.”
Numerous other measures in the strategy, such as the intention to speed research so that vaccines may be created and deployed within 100 days of variations emerging, which was revealed in November, are not new. However, when they are taken together, they provide a blueprint for the next step of the reaction.
The health secretary, Xavier Becerra, who has been criticised for maintaining a low public profile, made a rare public appearance on Wednesday with the health officials who provide the weekly White House briefings, according to the Washington Post.
Mr. Becerra emphasised another component of the strategy, which is to increase study into long-term Covid symptoms, which some patients endure after contracting an infection. “New centres of excellence” will be established around the nation to offer high-quality treatment for long-term Covid patients, but this will need support from Congress.
After a bipartisan group headed by two former governors pressed Mr. Biden to do more for the tens of thousands of children in the United States who have lost parents or caregivers to Covid-19, the White House seems to have listened and is now taking steps to help them. According to the proposal, the president will urge federal agencies to examine existing programmes in order to develop a more coordinated “bereavement response” for such children, who number around 200,000 at this point in time.
The goal of the approach, according to President Biden, is to bring the country out of crisis mode and to a point where the virus will no longer cause disruptions in regular life. It includes a commitment from the administration to collaborate with Congress to “provide advice, tests, and supplies to schools and businesses to allow them to remain open, including tools to increase ventilation and air filtering.”
In his first year as president, Mr. Biden published a 200-page plan to tackle the epidemic, which he considered the most important task facing the country at the time of his election. However, a great deal has changed since then.
More than 200 million people in the United States have received vaccinations. Two fresh waves, one powered by the Delta variety and the other by Omicron, have increased the number of people who have died to roughly one million. Several Covid therapies, like the Pfizer medication Paxlovid, have been developed, and they will be essential components of the “test and treat” strategy.
According to a database maintained by the New York Times, around 60,000 new cases are reported every day in the United States. That is a significant decrease from the daily average of 800,000 in January, when the winter surge fuelled by Omicron was at its apex. However, it is still much greater than the daily average in June of last year, when Delta fueled a summer spike.
However, according to Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at Yale University, with mask mandates being phased out across the country, the administration — and in particular the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which relaxed its mask guidance last week — has placed an undue burden on the most vulnerable Americans in order to protect themselves.
One mask requirement that will not be repealed — at least not for the foreseeable future — is the one imposed by President Biden on airlines, trains, and other modes of transportation. According to Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, the order will stay in force until at least March 18, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is examining it.
President Biden asked on Congress to grant more cash to the government so that it can stockpile more testing, masks, and medications during his State of the Union speech. American citizens who had previously purchased free at-home tests from a government website, covidtests.gov, would be permitted to place further orders starting next week, according to the official statement.