President Biden said: “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,”… But some experts expressed concern that the country is trying to move past the pandemic too quickly — repeating mistakes made several times over the last two years.”
for links to POSTS 1-238 in chronological order highlight and click on
“President Biden announced during his State of the Union address on Tuesday that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 at a pharmacy will soon be able to get free antiviral treatments immediately after.
“We’ve ordered more pills than anyone in the world has. Pfizer is working overtime to get us a million pills this month and more than double that next month,” Biden said. “And now we’re launching the ‘Test to Treat’ initiative. So people can get tested at a pharmacy and, if they prove positive, receive the antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.”
“If you’re immunocompromised or have some other vulnerability, we have treatments and free high-quality masks. We’re leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward,” he added.” (A)
“The Biden administration doubled its order for Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, the company and the White House said on Tuesday, providing the government a total of 20 million courses as it fights a record surge in COVID-19 cases.
The White House now expects some 4 million treatment courses of the pills to be available by the end of January and 10 million by June, three months sooner than previously planned, according to an administration official.
“We’re getting them as soon as they come off the line,” the official said.
Details of the expanded deal, Pfizer’s largest yet for the pill, were not disclosed by the company.
For the first order of 10 million courses in November, the U.S. government had said it would pay Pfizer $5.29 billion.
“These pills will be delivered in the coming months and have been shown to dramatically decrease hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” the White House said on Twitter.” (B)
““Tonight, I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”…
COVID-19 cases have fallen to their lowest level since last summer in recent weeks, after a winter spike from the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. Deaths, though, which lag cases by weeks, are still elevated, with an average of nearly 1,700 people dying in the U.S. each day. U.S. officials emphasize that most instances of serious illnesses and death in the U.S. occur among those who are unvaccinated or who have not received a booster dose of the vaccines.
Earlier Tuesday, Biden extended the federal government’s 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through July 1, the White House announced Tuesday.” (C)
“The president’s plan focuses on four major areas: protecting against infection and treating people who develop COVID-19; preparing for new variants; preventing economic and school shutdowns; and supporting efforts to prevent and treat infections around the world, he said.
Right now, it’s complicated to access medications for COVID-19, which must be given within five to seven days of the onset of symptoms. Tests can sometimes take days to confirm an infection. Getting a prescription can be tricky and time-consuming, particularly for people who don’t have a primary care doctor. And the drugs remain in short supply.
With his “test to treat” initiative, Biden plans to dramatically increase supply, particularly of an antiviral made by Pfizer, which has been shown to prevent nearly 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in people at high risk for disease.
He announced Tuesday that his administration has bought 20 million doses of the antiviral, and Pfizer will provide 1 million doses this month and twice that amount next month. Monoclonal antibodies, which provide the body tools to fight off infection, also will be made available at no cost, along with the drug remdesivir, which has been shown to prevent the vast majority of hospitalizations if given within a week of the onset of symptoms…
Part of the administration’s plan is boosting American manufacturing capacity to produce 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine a year and expanding and extending coronavirus testing capacity.
To avoid having to close schools and businesses during future outbreaks, the plan also includes better ventilation and air filtration, sick leave for people who are infected or who need to care for someone who has been infected, and assistance for child care facilities.
To quickly identify and combat new viral variants, the administration plans to expand wastewater tracking, which can detect an increase in infections four to six days before people are diagnosed, and expand genomic surveillance to learn of the presence of new variants when they represent just .1% of cases, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the news conference.
The CDC also is developing systems for more quickly determining the effectiveness of vaccines and medications against new variants, provide emergency supplies, extend hospital capacity and accelerate development and distribution of new vaccines and treatments.” (D)
“There have been an estimated 140 million Covid-19 infections in the US, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, even though only 74.3 million cases have been reported as of January 31.
The data comes from the CDC’s nationwide antibody seroprevalence survey, in which it’s working with state, local, academic and commercial partners to test blood samples for antibodies to the coronavirus triggered by infection, not by vaccination. By measuring Covid-19 seroprevalence, the study provides an estimate of the percentage of the population that was previously infected…
Keri Althoff, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN that although the CDC data can accurately say who does or doesn’t have antibodies, “what it doesn’t tell us is: Are those antibodies high enough to actually protect against infection if the virus would come that person’s way again?”
The presence of antibodies does not imply protection from reinfection, and the survey does not measure how much antibody is present.
Studies have shown that the level of protective antibodies created from an infection can last longer than those from vaccination, but the CDC does not recommend using antibody testing to assess for immunity to Covid-19.
“The Covid infections themselves have created a lot of immunity. How durable, how strong, what the duration of that immunity is, remains to be determined,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center….
“What these data are designed to give us a sense of is: What’s the magnitude of the issue? It’s a little like looking at some mountains across a big plain. You can see where the mountains rise, where they peak and where they fall. You don’t have to count every tree to get the big picture,” Schaffner said…
However, there are limitations to the data. Althoff said that because it sources blood work done for non-Covid purposes, it’s important to consider who is being left out of the study.
“Who’s having blood work done? People who have access to health care. And what do we know about this virus? … It disproportionately impacted communities of lower socioeconomic statuses, communities that also tend to have a lower access to health care,” she said, noting that the seroprevalence measure is probably an underestimate.
Nevertheless, the data offers a snapshot of one source of immunity for the US population.
“As we’re peeling back these mandates … it’s important to know we’ve got a pretty good cushion of population immunity going on right now. And we’re going to have to watch it closely, because that will wane,” Althoff said.” (E)
“Biden said now was the moment for people to begin going back to work regularly, following two years of pandemic-related changes to the workplace. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” he urged.
Biden called for a bipartisan “reset” from the polarization of the past two years. “We can’t change how divided we’ve been. But we can change how we move forward — on Covid-19 and other issues we must face together,” he said.” (F)
“Officials still shied away from declaring that the pandemic is winding down or could turn into a regular, endemic, part of life. “We are clearly going in the right direction,” said Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser and infectious disease expert. “And with all the interventions we have, I believe that we are prepared for the possibility that we will get another variant.”
The strategy, which was developed by White House and health officials over the last several weeks, is organized around the central goals of protecting and treating Covid; preparing for new variants; guarding against economic and educational shutdowns; and leading the global vaccination effort…
The administration’s descriptions for how it anticipates meeting its long-range objectives are largely high level so far, with the plan asserting aspirations of “ensuring there are enough treatments for Americans who need them” and to “continue to have a robust supply of tests.”
At multiple points during Wednesday’s briefing, officials emphasized that much of the strategy relies on Congress authorizing significantly more funding — a step that Republicans have signaled they are skeptical of taking. Zients refused to detail how much money the administration needs to execute on its plan, saying only that it will soon send its request to Capitol Hill…
“We’ve reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, with severe cases down to a level not seen since last July,” Biden said during his Tuesday State of the Union address, in what amounted to his most optimistic remarks on the pandemic in months.
But the White House is also determined to avoid a repeat of last summer’s July Fourth celebration, when it all but declared the pandemic over only to get hit with a lethal surge within weeks.
The administration has stressed this time around that it will spend the next several months preparing for the next dangerous variant, with the plan vowing to expand its data capabilities and supplies.
The plan proposes bolstering surveillance and data collection and speeding the Food and Drug Administration’s review of already-authorized vaccines that are altered to target new variants. It also announced that coronavirus tests, antiviral pills and masks would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile for the first time. Officials are also attempting to source child-sized masks and add them to the Strategic National Stockpile.” (G)
“Outside experts also helped federal health officials game out a range of future scenarios, including strategies to prevent a new variant from overwhelming the country the way omicron did.
In the best case, they said, infections might continue declining with no new variant emerging that would be capable of reinfecting large numbers of people, according to two individuals familiar with the discussions. In the worst case, the administration would need to prepare for another omicron-like variant that is able to reinfect and sicken those who are vaccinated or had previous infections — feedback the White House appeared to implement in its new plan.
“We need to be prepared for our new normal, or another new surge,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of Biden’s covid-19 transition task force. “We’ve got to do both.”
To prepare for the worst case, Osterholm and other experts said the administration needs to help states make better decisions about mitigation measures and ensure there are ample supplies of vaccines, tests, antivirals and masks. Some privately worry the administration has spent too much time addressing “yesterday’s problem,” rather taking more creative approaches, according to a person familiar with the discussions…
But some experts expressed concern that the country is trying to move past the pandemic too quickly — repeating mistakes made several times over the last two years.
“My concern is, this is not the end,” said Abraar Karan, an infectious-disease physician at Stanford University. “CDC is saying because incidence is getting lower, this is the time to pull back on ‘restrictions.’ But we’ve done this so many times and we continue to have big resurgences.”” (H)
“Two years into the pandemic, the idea of “following the science” has oversimplified what’s actually a complex array of factors that policymakers must weigh in formulating a response…
Driving the news: The CDC’s decision to loosen masking guidance is the latest example of a pandemic policy rooted in science, but that is ultimately a judgment call.
The agency tied the revised guidance to an updated formula for determining a community’s risk level. The change reflects the fact that vaccinations and the Omicron variant have made case counts a less useful measure of pandemic severity, and some experts say it was long overdue.
Other experts, however, have also used science to criticize the change, arguing it fails to protect people who are immunocompromised, children who aren’t eligible for vaccination or children for whom new data suggests vaccines don’t adequately protect against infection.
The big picture: President Biden took office vowing to “follow the science.” But science is much less of a road map than it is information that should be used to choose the best route.
For example, science told us last summer that the vaccines’ effectiveness had waned over time. But it didn’t tell us what level of effectiveness was acceptable, or if and when a booster shot was needed. Policymakers and regulators had to provide those answers.
Similarly, there is no scientific marker for when someone needs to wear a mask. This allows health experts and scientists to be able to disagree on what policy should be while still claiming that they are following the science.
“Two different scientists can look at the same set of data and come up with different conclusions. That’s not to say that one person is being unscientific or ignoring the scientific process,” said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a professor at George Washington University. “Public health policy is also a measure of values.”
Between the lines: Science isn’t absolute — data can come with uncertainties and unknowns.” (I)
“So what will the pattern look like for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, once it becomes endemic? And how much disruption will it cause? The short answer is: We don’t know yet. The endemic pattern of any disease is more easily understood retrospectively, and the coronavirus has been with us for only about two years. However, there are signs and factors that we can all watch for, which provide indications of how Covid-19 will affect our lives in the seasons and years to come. Those signs are worth discussing and bookmarking in our brains as we move toward a more normal, functioning society.
An optimistic scenario is for SARS-CoV-2 to settle into a less disruptive flulike pattern, producing wintertime outbreaks with hospitalization and mortality rates lower than we saw in 2020 and 2021. A more pessimistic scenario is for the virus to continue to generate variants that evade immunity and are capable of infecting large numbers of the population.
While it is difficult to know how endemic coronavirus will manifest, there are two important characteristics worth monitoring in the coming months and years: the frequency and severity of outbreaks. These two factors will delineate the disruption caused by the coronavirus going forward.” (J)
- A.Biden announces ‘Test to Treat’ initiative, free COVID-19 antiviral treatment after positive test, BY JOSEPH CHOI, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/596449-biden-announces-test-to-treat-initiative-free-covid-19-antiviral-treatment
- B.Pfizer to supply U.S. with 10 mln more courses of COVID-19 pills, By Manojna Maddipatla and Trevor Hunnicutt, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/pfizer-supply-10-mln-additional-courses-covid-19-pill-us-govt-2022-01-04/
- C.Biden Outlines COVID-19 Plans in State of the Union Address, BY ZEKE MILLER, https://time.com/6153820/biden-covid-19-state-of-the-union/
- D.Biden administration unveils COVID-19 preparedness plan, includes a ‘test to treat’ initiative, by Karen Weintraub, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2022/03/02/biden-administration-unveils-covid-19-preparedness-plan-test-treat/9341266002/
- E.CDC estimates 140 million US Covid-19 infections, By Tasnim Ahmed and Katherine Dillinger, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/01/health/140-million-covid-19-infections/index.html
- F.’Covid-19 need no longer control our lives.’ Biden outlines plan to emerge from the pandemic, By Tara John and Isabelle Jani Friend, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/02/world/coronavirus-newsletter-intl-03-02-22-duplicate/index.html
- G.Biden wants to move U.S. past Covid. Here’s his plan to do it, By ADAM CANCRYN, DAVID LIM and SARAH OWERMOHLE, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/02/biden-covid-plan-00013186
- H.White House unveils pandemic ‘reset’ plan, says shutdowns, school closures no longer necessary, By Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, Dan Diamond and Katie Shepherd, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/03/01/biden-pandemic-reset/
- I.The limits of “following the science”, by Caitlin Owens and Alison Snyder, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-pandemic-science-policy-cdc-masks-vaccines-b072da58-1bf3-42cd-af3a-08aa26ffa7ff.html
- J.What Will Our Covid Future Be Like? Here Are Two Signs to Look Out For., By Jeffrey Shaman, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/04/opinion/endemic-covid-future.html?referringSource=articleShare