You are currently viewing Needless deaths if Congress doesn’t hand over Covid funds: official

Needless deaths if Congress doesn’t hand over Covid funds: official

Top US health officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for Congress to decide how to fund the nation’s fight against Covid-19, warning that failure to act now would result in unnecessary loss of life throughout the fall and winter .

Their warning comes as new infections and hospitalizations surge while the more transmissible Omicron subvariants sweep the US

The country is reporting more than 94,000 new infections on average every day as of Monday, up 25% from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, hospitalizations have risen 18% over the past week, with an average of about 3,000 people admitted with Covid each day, according to CDC data.

dr Ashish Jha, the White House’s new Covid response coordinator, said the fact that many people are now doing tests at home, the results of which are not captured in the data, needs to be taken into account.

“We know the number of infections is actually significantly higher, hard to know exactly how many, but we know many people are being diagnosed with home testing,” Jha said during a White House update on the pandemic on Wednesday. “We clearly count too few cases. There are many infections across America.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said 32% of Americans live in areas with moderate or high levels of Covid, a metric that takes into account infections and hospitalizations. The CDC recommends that people in indoor public places wear masks if their community has high levels of Covid. These communities can be found on the Health Authority’s website.

Still, based on available data, the current wave of Covid cases is about 90% lower than the first Omicron wave in winter, which was unprecedented in scale and speed. Hospital admissions are also 86% lower than the peak of this wave.

Jha said the US has a better national system to deal with the current wave compared to previous periods of the pandemic. For example, Pfizer’s antiviral test treatment is widely available for the first time. It is prescribed to people infected with Covid who are at high risk of serious illness. Jha said the country’s doctors write 20,000 prescriptions for Paxlovid every day.

The Biden administration is now allowing households to order eight free Covid tests through the covid.gov/tests website. The Food and Drug Administration also this week approved third Pfizer shots for children ages 5 to 11. If the CDC signs off boosters for that age group on Thursday, everyone ages 5 and older would be entitled to at least three shots. People aged 50 and over can receive a fourth dose, and people aged 12 and over can receive a fifth dose.

But Jha said the US had no money to buy more vaccines and treatments and manufacture Covid tests for the fall. He warned that the US would face unnecessary loss of life if Congress did not approve President Joe Biden’s request for $22.5 billion in Covid funding. Public health officials expect another wave of infections in the fall as immunity to the vaccines wanes, the virus mutates into more and more transmissible variants, and people head indoors to escape the colder weather.

“We need to plan for a scenario where we don’t get any more resources from Congress. I think it would be terrible. I think we would see a lot of unnecessary losses if that happened,” said Jha. More than two years after the pandemic began, 1 million people have died from Covid in the United States.

Jha said the FDA is likely to introduce redesigned vaccines this summer that target mutations the virus has developed over the past two years, with the goal of giving people more durable protection against Covid. But he said the US would only have the money to provide these next-generation vaccines to people at high risk of serious illnesses, the elderly and the immune-compromised if Congress didn’t provide money. The US would also run out of treatments for people who get infected, he said.

Jha also said Covid test makers in the US are already laying off workers and closing production lines because demand has fallen and the federal government doesn’t have enough money to support them. In the coming weeks, they’ll likely sell devices and go out of business altogether. That would make the US dependent on test manufacturers in other countries if there is a wave in the fall and the demand for tests suddenly increases as much as in the winter.

Jha would not provide a projection of what the public should expect in the fall. He said the models vary widely because predictions depend on how much immunity has existed in the population since the first Omicron wave and how strong that immunity would protect against a possible future variant. He said that if Congress passed funding for next-generation vaccines for all Americans, it would also change projections of a fall wave.

Jha said he has spoken regularly to lawmakers, particularly Republicans, who have blocked the Senate from handing over $10 billion in additional Covid funding. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, negotiated this much smaller funding deal in April. But conservative lawmakers refuse to back the deal unless the CDC re-imposes a public health law the US used to deport asylum seekers arriving at the border with Mexico during the pandemic.

Jha said he spoke to lawmakers again this morning on Capitol Hill and is optimistic Congress will eventually get through with the Covid funds.

Leave a Reply