White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiHealthcare – Pelosi shoots higher on COVID-19 funding Defense and national security – Blinken describes Russia’s possible next step Biden says the United States is open to helping Ukrainian refugees MORE provided a stark reminder of COVID-19 at Thursday’s media briefing.
The fact that the virus is no longer as disruptive to everyday life as before “does not mean it is gone,” Psaki said. “It’s not gone.”
The warning was important because the dangers of COVID-19 are on the rise again – even though pandemic Americans have stepped into something approaching normal life.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also diverted attention from the pandemic, and overall the political agenda and most of the media coverage.
The danger is that the nation has taken its eye off the ball.
“We are behaving as if the pandemic is over, and it certainly is not,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law and a public health expert. “We are going to crash through 1 million deaths soon. And in the future we will most likely continue to see peaks and declines.”
Gostin added: “I think the public is so tired of COVID restrictions that they have stopped worrying. I think they are becoming numb to illness and death and they are accepting risks, they would never have before. ”
Medical experts, including Gostin, note that the chances of the kind of disaster seen when COVID-19 first hit are slim. At that time, no vaccines had been developed and no one had the natural protection that a previous infection provided.
Both of these dynamics have changed, making a massive number of deaths – or a total collapse of the hospital system – far less likely.
But if the nightmare scenarios from the first phase of the pandemic are withdrawn, the dangers of a new sub-variant of the omicron variant, BA.2, are only just beginning to come into focus.
“Because [BA.2] is 80 percent more contagious, we should be concerned, ”said Kavita Patel, who served in the former President Obama
In addition, Patel said: “There is a large section of the population who are immunocompromised and still need to take this seriously.”
Although public attention has drifted away from COVID-19, some high-profile cases in recent days may serve as a reminder that the danger is still out there.
Just this week, Obama and Second Gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffHealthcare – Pelosi shoots higher on COVID-19 funding Biden’s COVID-19 test regime does not change before travel to Europe COVID-19 distorts the White House St. Patrick’s Day Planner MORE are both tested positive. In public statements, both men were said to have only mild symptoms. Not even former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaFirst ladies help fight the good fight during war Obama will tell Netflix series ‘Our Great National Parks’ Barack Obama tests positive for COVID-19 MORE nor does Vice President Harris appear to have been infected.
On Thursday, however, the traditional St Patrick’s Day meeting between the US President and the Prime Minister of Ireland had to be held almost after the latter, Micheál Martin, tested positive for COVID-19 the night before.
Martin’s case, in turn, raised concerns for the chairman Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFauci says officials need more than 0.5B for COVID-19 response Healthcare – Pelosi shoots higher on COVID-19 funding Defense and national security – Blinken describes Russia’s possible next step MORE (D-Calif.), Who sat next to the Irish Prime Minister at a gala on Wednesday.
Abroad, cases are rising again in China, where Shanghai has closed its schools and two mayors have been fired. New cases in China have risen exponentially in the past month, although overall figures are still modest.
The UK has also seen a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases where new infections rose 48 per cent in a week earlier in the month. The increase is related to a combination of the transferability of BA.2 and a relaxation of almost all requirements for social distancing.
Here in the United States, political battles over the pandemic are heating up again after Democrats had to remove a request for new COVID-19 aid funding from a massive bill on state spending passed last week.
Pelosi on Thursday proposed that the White House double its initial request to $ 45 billion as Democrats seek to pass independent legislation.
“I think they should be double what they asked for, because even when they asked for some 20 [billion dollars]it would only bring us to June, “Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday.
The White House has stressed what it sees as the dangers of losing funding, especially when it comes to regulations such as tests and therapeutic treatments such as monoclonal antibodies.
Psaki said Tuesday that the forecast would be “scary” if that happened.
But Republicans have been openly skeptical of the need for such a large tranche of money.
When an initial figure of $ 30 billion was moved downward in previous negotiations to $ 22.5 billion, Sen said. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCapito bids Senate GOP leadership The White House warns that it has to cut back on virus response due to lack of funds Ukraine conflict a blessing for the defense industry MORE (R-Mo.) Told Politico, “It’s not because of need, but rather it’s the number they think they can most likely get right now.”
For Biden, there is an obvious political danger if there is a new increase in COVID-19 cases. In such a scenario, public morale, which is already low, is likely to deteriorate further. There would also be economic spillover effects on factors such as inflation, which have been accelerated by COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions.
The public’s appetite for taking widespread precautions seems to be mostly worn out.
Some experts argue that legislators need to accept that reality instead of fighting it – and figuring out how to best deal with the consequences.
“We need to meet the public where they are,” said Leana Wen, a former City of Baltimore health commissioner. “If the public very clearly tells us that they have moved on, we need to give them the tools to deal with the virus and they can choose the level of risk they are willing to take.”
But for Wen, it was all the more reason for politicians and especially Congress to act.
“It seems that Congress has not learned its lesson from the last two years,” she said. “We have seen what happens when you wait until there is a crisis before investing in prevention. It’s too late when that happens.
“The window is closed.”
The memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage