Today, members of the Biden COVID-19 contingency team spoke unmasked and from the same space to the nation as they spoke of the country’s transition to a “new normal” phase of the pandemic, where COVID-19 is no longer a national emergency.
Following statements made last night during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, Jeff Zients, White House COVID Response Coordinator, said, “We have reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19 because of the significant progress we have made. as a country. and we will certainly move on. “
Zients said most Americans can now be mask-free, and a new one federal response plan released today will focus on four key goals for the way forward. These include a new test for treatment program that will provide free medication at commercial pharmacies to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The plan also includes a vaccine development platform that can tailor vaccines to new variants within 100 days, plans to prevent future school and company shutdowns, and more efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally.
“The plan is robust and comprehensive,” Zients said.
Plan promises more antiviral drugs
The test-to-treat program will establish “One-Stop Test to Treat” locations at pharmacy-based clinics, local health centers, long-term care facilities and wards for veterans across the country, the White House said.
“One-stop” sites will be operational within the month and will allow patients who test positive at a pharmacy to be treated with Pfizer’s Paxlovid antiviral pills on site, free of charge.
Last night, Biden said Pfizer would make 1 million antiviral pills this month and 2 million in April.
The pills, which were approved at the end of last year, have so far been in short supply in the United States. They are intended to prevent hospitalization and death in people aged 12 and older who are at risk of developing severe outcomes of COVID-19 infections. Users should take three tablets twice a day for 5 days shortly after their COVID-19 diagnosis.
Better testing is needed
Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MD, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, who consulted with the White House on the plan, said that although testing for treatment is in principle an excellent idea , it would require better fast COVID-19 tests.
“We continue to see in the first days of the infection that rapid lateral flow tests are only [correctly] positive 40% to 60% of the time, “said Osterholm.” We do not want to reject those who are positive, so this begs for much more sensitive lateral flow tests. “
In terms of rapid production of vaccines for new varieties, the reports say, “America has established a world-class sequencing operation that sequences up to 90,000 isolates per week.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can now reliably detect variants that account for as little as 0.1% of all COVID-19 cases circulating in the United States, and scientists can assess mutations quickly, allowing the government to respond fast on worrying varieties.
Osterholm welcomed this effort, saying he was convinced that President Biden understood that even after relative months of quiet, new variants could change the pandemic in the United States in the future.
Daily average drops to 60,000 cases
The daily number of cases continues to fall across the country as the nation emerges from this winter’s Omicron rise.
The United States reported 47,031 new COVID-19 cases today and 1,691 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
The 7-day average of new daily cases is 59,532, with 1,929 daily deaths, according to Washington Post tracker. This is a drop from a daily average of 800,000 registered cases in early January.
Department of Health and Human Services Protect Public Data Hub shows that 41,944 beds are currently in use for COVID-19 patients.