'New Normal of Life With COVID': Ex-Biden Advisers Urge POTUS to Update US Coronavirus Strategy
12:00 GMT 07.01.2022 (Updated: 13:27 GMT 06.08.2022)
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she had not yet read the op-eds by the president's former advisers about a possible new plan to grapple with COVID, but stressed that President Joe Biden's goal is still to "defeat the virus".
Six former health advisers to US President Joe Biden have urged him to change his administration's national strategy for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
In three separate opinion pieces
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
on Thursday, the ex-advisers called for a new plan and detailed strategies for testing, mitigation, vaccines, and treatments.
The op-eds were written by Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and University of Pennsylvania professor, Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, and Rick Bright from the Rockefeller Foundation.
The authors warned that without a strategic plan for the "new normal of life with COVID, […] more people in the US will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality, health inequities will widen, and trillions will be lost from the US economy".
According to them, the "new normal" should be "recognising that SARS-CoV-2 is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more". At the same time, the scientists admitted that the coronavirus is more serious than the other illnesses in terms of hospitalisations and fatalities.
31 December 2021, 21:00 GMT
"The goal for the 'new normal' with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, eg, the 'zero COVID' strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appear to confer lifelong immunity. Current vaccines do not offer sterilising immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection", the doctors argued.
They insisted that the government's early response to the pandemic
under the Biden administration was "seriously flawed", and that problems are yet to be resolved given that "early guidance on testing was mistargeted, getting tested was a logistical nightmare, and too few tests were performed".
"Once an acceptable, yet suboptimal, testing infrastructure was established, it was marginalised, thought to be superfluous because of the vaccines. Even now, testing results are not reliably linked with sociodemographic data, vaccination status, or clinical outcomes; the availability of reliable rapid tests remains limited; and prices are too high", the ex-advisers said.
The doctors urged the Biden administration to create "a comprehensive, permanently funded system for testing, surveillance, and mitigation measures that does not currently exist", something that may add to getting to a "new normal".
They underscored that the Biden administration's plan "to distribute 500 million at-home rapid tests and ramp up production using the Defence Production Act is an important step in the right direction but many more are needed".
21 December 2021, 19:48 GMT
"Every person in the US should have access to low-cost testing to determine if they are infected and infectious", they wrote.
The authors also called for a broader introduction of vaccine mandates, adding that the government should make high-quality masks like N95 available for free for all Americans.
"It appears that SARS-CoV-2 will persist, and the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for some time. Consequently, to achieve a sustainable 'new normal' with substantially lower virus transmission and mortality from COVID-19, testing, surveillance, masking, and ventilation all need significant improvement", the doctors claimed.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier told reporters that she had not read the articles, but underlined that "the president's focus and objective is to save as many lives as possible".
"And we know what works and we know that pushing more people, getting more people vaccinated, getting more people boosted, encouraging mask wearing, making sure schools have the resources they need to stay open and do that in a safe way – these are steps that work", she claimed.
Biden laid out his administration's plan for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, including an effort to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.