This week the White House announced a new plan to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. In his State of the Union address, President Biden stated the wide availability of vaccines and therapeutics has decreased the coronavirus threat to a more manageable level.
The plan states, “We look to a future when Americans no longer fear lockdowns, shutdowns, and our kids not going to school. It’s a future when the country relies on the powerful layers of protection we have built and invests in the next generation of tools to stay ahead of this virus.”
The 96-page road map focuses on four goals: protecting against and treating covid, including a “test to treat” initiative which would give people antiviral pills immediately if they test positive at select pharmacies and clinics; preparing for a potentially dangerous new variant; preventing economic and educational shutdowns; and expanding vaccinations worldwide. To aid in preparation for surges from new variants, the government is working to stockpile additional supplies of vaccines, antiviral medicines, masks, and tests.
Health officials state the new plan would allow them to quickly identify and assess the transmissibility and severity of new variants. Also, they would be able to produce and authorize new vaccines and treatments within 100 days of identifying a variant, if necessary. As a result, many experts feel the plan has the right balance between caution and vigilance. While state and local health officials also praised the plan, they’re waiting to hear more details, especially specifics about funding.
White House officials acknowledged that the plan is dependent on funding that is still being negotiated with Congress. According to federal agencies, the price tag of the new plan is over $30 billion. It remains unclear whether the administration can win the support of Republican lawmakers who want better accounting of existing spending to see if some of the money might be repurposed.
The Biden administration is trying to lift as many restrictions as possible to enable people to go about their lives. However, a recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that 50 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s management of the pandemic despite the steep decline in cases and an easing of restrictions in most parts of the country.
When explaining the rationale for the new strategy, administration officials said the country has entered a new, less dangerous phase of the pandemic. They stated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new approach to measuring the disease’s impact as one of the reasons for the changes. The CDC now stresses that hospitalizations and hospital capacity are a better way to assess a community’s ability to withstand the virus rather than just case counts.
Experts have come to realize that there will always be Covid-19. We won’t be able to eradicate or eliminate it. This means the strategies and tactics need to change. Each person will have to approach their response based on their risk tolerance, not a government mandate.