The White House issued a new coronavirus strategy on Wednesday, a 96-page plan aimed at ushering the United States into what some are calling a “new normal” with four main goals: protecting against and treating Covid-19; preparing for new variants; avoiding shutdowns and fighting the virus abroad.
“Make no mistake, President Biden will not accept just ‘living with Covid’ any more than we accept ‘living with’ cancer, Alzheimer’s, or AIDS,” the plan declares. “We will continue our work to stop the spread of the virus, blunt its impact on those who get infected, and deploy new treatments to dramatically reduce the occurrence of severe Covid-19 disease and deaths.”
The plan comes on the heels of the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, which Mr. Biden used to sketch out the next phase of his pandemic response, including a “test to treat” initiative aimed at providing patients with antiviral medications as soon as they learn they are infected.
Although this initiative is brand new, a lot of it draws from actions that the administration already takes. It will also require funding from Congress.
For instance, the strategy also includes a plan, unveiled by the White House in November, that will require Congressional funding to expand manufacturing capacity, with the goal of producing at least one billion additional doses a year — three times the U.S. population — and to accelerate research on a universal Covid-19 vaccine that would protect against all variants.
The administration also pledged in the plan to work with Congress to “give schools and businesses guidance, tests and supplies to stay open, including tools to improve ventilation and air filtration.”
More than a year ago, Mr. Biden was elected to office with a 200-page plan for combating the coronavirus. This was his most pressing challenge as a new president. Since then, over 200 million Americans were vaccinated. Two new waves — one fueled by the Delta variant, the other by Omicron — have driven up deaths to nearly 1 million.
The new strategy’s goal is to get the country out of crisis mode and into a place where the virus will not disrupt everyday life. In his State of the Union address, the president spoke in broad strokes about the future; the new plan explains the details.
“I know you’re tired, frustrated and exhausted,” he said Tuesday, adding: “But I also know this: Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.”
Under the “test to treat” program, Mr. Biden said, Americans could get tested at a pharmacy and, if they are positive, “receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.”
Although the pills, made by Pfizer, have been relatively scarce since they were authorized late last year, Mr. Biden said in his speech that “Pfizer is working overtime to get us one million pills this month and more than double that next month.”
A White House official said that people could begin receiving pills through the program beginning this month. This includes places like CVS Walgreens and Kroger.
The official stated that the initiative will educate the public on the availability of antiviral treatment options and the importance of starting them as soon after symptoms start. They will be distributed directly to long-term care facilities.
Mr. Biden also vowed in his Tuesday night address to prepare for new variants, saying that if necessary, his administration could deploy new vaccines within 100 days of a variant’s arrival. He urged Congress to increase funding for the administration to stockpile additional tests, masks, and pills. He said that Americans who order free at-home tests through a government website, covidtests.gov would be able buy more starting next week.
“I cannot promise a new variant won’t come,” he said. “But I can promise you we’ll do everything within our power to be ready if it does.”
According to a New York Times database, the average number of U.S. cases per day is around 60,000. This is significantly less than the 800,000. daily average in January, when the Omicron variant was at its peak. However, it is still more that five times the daily caseload of June 2013, before Delta caused a summer surge.
Despite the fact that Mr. Biden claims that things are improving, there are still large numbers of Americans at risk. Children under 5 years of age are not eligible to be vaccinated. New York State Health officials released data on Monday that showed the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was less effective in preventing infections in children aged 5 to 11 years than it is in adults and adolescents.
A staggering seven million Americans have weak immune systems or other disabilities that make them more susceptible to severe Covid. Last week, the White House announced that it was taking steps to make masks or coronavirus testing more accessible to people with disabilities.
Source: NY Times