Biden draws heat for saying the pandemic is over

(The Hill) – President Biden is drawing criticism from lawmakers and public health experts, who warn that his assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic is over could undermine the administration’s rollout of new vaccinations and efforts to secure more funding. from Congress.

“The pandemic is over,” Biden told 60 Minutes in an interview Sunday.

“We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working on it a lot. This — but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing a mask. Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think so [the Detroit Auto Show resuming] it’s a great example,” Biden said during a trip to Detroit last week in an interview with Scott Pelley.

Biden’s comments reflect the administration’s efforts to signal a return to normalcy and show progress in efforts to control the pandemic. The administration has focused in its recent announcements on the importance of vaccination and revaccination to boost immunity, as well as the widespread availability of antiviral pills and other forms of treatment for those who contract the virus.

But the remarks are also at odds with some of the White House’s top advisers.

“The pandemic is not over. And we will remain vigilant, and of course we continue to look and prepare for contingencies,” Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters on September 6.

The virus is still killing about 400 people a day, a number that is “too high for a vaccine-preventable disease,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rachel Walensky said recently.

The White House declined to comment.

Biden’s remarks could also complicate efforts to convince lawmakers to include a $22.4 billion request for additional vaccines and treatments in a mandatory government spending bill.

“You can imagine that when you say the pandemic is over, you know, the small window of opportunity or the possibility that there could be additional funding for COVID becomes almost impossible at this point,” said Josh Michaud, deputy director for global health policy. to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Federal health officials said the funding is critical to meeting immediate short-term domestic needs such as testing, research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics. It will also help you prepare for future options.

Republicans have been reluctant to give the administration billions of dollars in new money, and some immediately seized on Biden’s remarks.

“Now that the president has finally recognized that the pandemic is over, he must begin immediately to resolve the public health emergency (PHE) so our country can get back to normal,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (D-Washington). statement on Monday.

“Instead of clinging to his emergency powers and asking for $22 billion in additional COVID-19 spending, President Biden should get to work and get serious about the need to restore trust in America’s health agencies,” she added.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the public health emergency is not being lifted.

“The COVID public health emergency remains in effect, and HHS will notify states 60 days in advance of any possible termination or expiration. As we have done in the past, we will continue to rely on science to determine the length of the PHE,” tweeted Sara Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for HHS Secretary Xavier Besser.

Health experts warn that prematurely declaring the pandemic over could also undermine the administration’s rollout of renewed vaccination efforts.

Administration officials say new vaccines will be key to controlling the potential fallout, and 100 million Americans could be infected without additional funding. “The big picture that the pandemic is over doesn’t add to the urgent messages coming from other parts of the administration that say it’s very important for people to get vaccinated,” Michaud said.

Source link