A new rise in COVID-19 infections in Europe has caused public health experts to worry that the US is not prepared to respond to a similar wave.
A large part of the country has lifted the few remaining measures after a sharp drop in cases. U.S. infections are at a low point in eight months, but officials and health experts are keeping a watchful eye on BA.2, the sub-variant of omicron that nourishes the overseas rise.
Europe has consistently been a window into the future of the United States throughout the pandemic. A widespread outbreak abroad is usually followed by one in the United States several weeks later.
The BA.2 version of omicron is no more serious than the original omicron variant, but it is more transferable. Combined with relaxed measures such as indoor masking and declining immunity among those who have not received a vaccine booster, experts said they are not surprised to see the number of cases increase in Europe.
Administrative officials are closely monitoring the situation abroad because the same conditions exist in the United States
“I would not be surprised if, over the next few weeks, we see an increase in cases,” the White House chief medical officer said. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciHealthcare – Fauci warns that cases are rising again Fauci warns that COVID-19 infection rates are likely to rise The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Biden smashes Russia’s feathers in “murderous dictator” comments MORE said in a Thursday PBS interview. “The really important question is, will this be manifested in an increase in serious illness that would lead to hospitalization?”
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rochelle Walensky
“So we do not see this massive launch of omicron, of BA.2, but we expect that we will see more and more of it, and it may become the dominant variant in the coming weeks,” Walensky said Thursday during a panel discussion with the Bipartisan Policy Center.
In the week ending March 12, BA.2 accounted for 23.1 percent of all new coronavirus infections in the United States, according to CDC data, the largest percentage yet.
Walensky said she is in touch with colleagues in Europe to discuss hospitalization trends and find out what they are learning as the subvariant of omicron spreads.
“In terms of what we see in the UK and other countries, all of this is also happening while there is declining immunity … but then also that societies and populations have opened up. They relaxed on many of their mitigation strategies – which we have , “said Walensky.
Officials’ concerns are becoming more urgent in the midst of uncertainty about the future of the US pandemic response. More than $ 15 billion in funding has stalled in Congress in the midst of a political standoff, with no clear path forward.
President BidenJoe Biden Defense and national security – Biden sends new warning to China Energy and environment – Interior to continue oil leasing plans Healthcare – Fauci warns that cases are rising again MORE had originally asked Congress for $ 22.5 billion in new funding to fight the ongoing pandemic – a figure that was cut to $ 15.6 billion in light of the Republican opposition on Capitol Hill.
Republicans have been largely against all new COVID-19-related spending, and some are questioning whether more money is needed at all.
They insisted that the compromise amount be paid by recovering previously allocated state funds. When some Democrats objected, the provision was removed from a bill on state aid to be passed.
Health and Human Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHealthcare – Pelosi shoots higher on COVID-19 funding Pelosi says the White House should request B in new COVID assistance The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – What now after Zelensky’s speech? MORE this week huddled with Democrats on Capitol Hill and stresses the urgency of getting more pandemic funding.
Becerra told reporters Friday that he has been completely open to lawmakers about what the agency has done and what it can do with the appropriate resources.
“There has been transparency and details have been given to Congress. Let no one say they are not aware of the consequences of what they are doing,” Becerra said.
Administration officials warn that without funding, they will have to make major cuts, including the availability of a potential fourth-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
“We certainly know we do not have sufficient resources if a fourth dose were to be needed for all Americans,” HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm told reporters Friday.
Both Pfizer and Moderna this week asked the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use permit for an extra booster shot due to fears of declining immunity. Pfizer is asking for permission for people over the age of 65, while Moderna’s request was for all adults.
Most health experts said they do not expect to see a huge increase in serious infections or hospitalizations from the BA.2 version of omicron. But there are likely to be other variants, and experts and advocates have expressed concern that Congress is leaving America ill-prepared.
“This is a pattern that we have seen many, many times. Politicians respond much more easily to crises than they do to prevent anything,” said Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In addition, Kates said the recent CDC guide, which suggests most Americans can stop wearing masks, was poorly timed because it now makes it harder to convince the public and members of Congress that the pandemic is still something. to be taken seriously.
“Unfortunately, that kind of shift from the CDC coincided with the money running out. So that makes it really hard to argue or demonstrate that we could be at an abyss while the public health reins are loosened at the same time. It does not create a logical story . “