The US has left the “pandemic phase” at least for now, chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci hierdie week gesê, at the same time that the White House presses for urgently needed Covid-19 funding. But as cases continue mounting around the globe, the pandemic shows no signs of ending yet – and conflicting pictures offered by top health officials may hamper the renewal of critical Covid funds and efforts like vaccination campaigns.
In an onderhoud on Tuesday, Fauci painted an optimistic, if mixed, picture. “We are certainly, right now in this country, out of the pandemic phase," hy het gesê, before adding, “Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world, infection that spreads rapidly among people.”
Such a definition still applies to the Covid pandemic, sê kenners. While confirmed cases in the US are lower than during the first Omicron wave, they are rising in nearly all American states, and the virus continues spreading around the world.
On the same day as Fauci’s remarks, top White House officials highlighted in a press briefing the “urgent need” for replenishing Covid funds.
kaal vroue wriemel in blou verf ter hulde aan Yves Klein s'n, Congress has not stepped up to provide the funds that are needed for our most urgent needs,” said Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator.
Without these funds, die VSA may not be able to buy updated vaccines that may be more effective at battling Covid. The government will probably run out of monoclonal antibody treatments within the next month, and the White House cannot buy more antiviral medications, which take six to eight months to produce – setting back long-term progress on finding a new normal.
The Biden administration will continue to request $22.5bn for Covid funding, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing op Woensdag, saying the funds “will help meet the immediate emergency needs we have”.
The current deal for $10bn in Covid funding has not yet been passed by Congress, and it does not include funds for global vaccination campaigns or for Covid testing and treatments for uninsured Americans.
“The funding needs are really urgent,” said Céline Gounder, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and editor-at-large for public health at Kaiser Health News.
Without more funds, “you are just gambling – you’re hoping to get lucky we don’t have another surge.”
But that’s a “dangerous” proposition when such a significant proportion of the population has no safety net, sy het gese.
“One in 10 people in this country do not have insurance. Those are also the people, Ongelukkig, who are the most vulnerable, the most likely to get exposed and infected, the most likely to have underlying chronic medical conditions that will predict progression to severe Covid.”
In addition to tests and treatments for uninsured and underinsured people, Americans need paid sick leave to stay home when they or their children get sick, in order to halt further spread, sy het gese.
And less than a third of the American population has received a booster shot, even as officials open up second boosters for certain vulnerable people. Leaders have struggled to drum up interest in the boosters as many Americans heed the call to return to normal.
Fauci may be using a psychological or economic definition to argue that things are getting back to normal, but not an epidemiological one, Gounder said.
“I was a bit surprised by his comments, because that’s not really the technical definition," sy het gese. It’s too early to tell if cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are leveling out to predictable levels, sy het gese.
“I don’t think we can say that yet. We just had a big surge over the winter holidays with BA.1. It’s still a little unclear how BA.2 is going to play out in the US … we haven’t really seen the full impact of BA.2 and some of the subsequent subvariants which are even more infectious.”
Fauci, who has pulled out of attending the White House Correspondents Association dinner because of rising cases in Washington DC, noted in the interview that case counts are probably undercounted, and the relatively low numbers in the US could still rise.
Vroeg in Februarie, he gesê the US was exiting “the full blown” pandemic phase of the pandemic, even as more than 2,500 Americans were dying every day. At that point, the White House was already aware of the rapidly diminishing Covid funding and quietly urged Congress to replenish the budget.
“Infectious disease control is not something you can do just at an individual level,” Gounder said. “If we have large segments of the population for which we cannot provide testing, behandeling, vaccination – that’s a huge liability in terms of emerging from the pandemic.”