U.S. President Joe Biden said “I don’t think COVID is here to stay” one day after six of his former health advisers urged Americans to learn to live with coronavirus in a “new normal” and his administration to take a different approach to combatting it.
Writing Thursday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the advisers wrote three articles calling on Americans to learn to live with the virus as opposed to trying to eradicate it.
“Without a strategic plan for the ‘new normal’ with endemic COVID-19, more people in the U.S. will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality, health inequities will widen, and trillions will be lost from the U.S. economy,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm and Dr. Celine Gounder, who served on Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board in 2020, wrote in one of the articles.
The former officials called for building a “modern data infrastructure” and more public health workers, including school nurses, among other things.
“Two years into the pandemic, the U.S. is still heavily reliant on data from Israel and the U.K. for assessing the effectiveness and durability of COVID-19 vaccines and rate of vaccine breakthrough infections,” they wrote.
They called for better access to cheap and rapid testing, as well as more monitoring of air and wastewater to get ahead of potential outbreaks.
They also called for vaccine mandates and the development of variant-specific vaccines.
Moreover, they called for a rebuilding of trust in the nation’s public health institutions, calling the initial response to the pandemic “seriously flawed.”
The three officials wrote that rather than living in “a perpetual state of emergency,” the public should live with the virus by reducing peak outbreaks, and they called for “humility” in dealing with a persistent and evolving virus.
Biden, speaking to reporters Friday at the White House, acknowledged “Having COVID here in the environment and in the world is probably here to stay but COVID, as we’re dealing with it now, is not here to stay. The new normal doesn’t have to be.”
“We have so many more tools we’re developing and continue to develop that can contain COVID and other strains of COVID, so I don’t believe this is that,” the president added.
Biden predicted “we’re going to be able to control” the spread of the virus by continuing vaccination campaigns and testing programs he said administer 300 million tests a month.
Biden said, “even though we still have problems,” progress has been made, noting that 90% of schools in the U.S. were able to reopen since last year “because we spent the time and the money in the Recovery Act.”
In other U.S. pandemic news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded COVID-19 booster shot eligibility for some adolescents to combat the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus. The move came as the agency faces criticism over messaging confusion on how to cope with infections.
In a statement late Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged young people ages 12 and older to get COVID-19 boosters as soon as they’re eligible. Boosters were previously encouraged for people in the United States who were 16 and older.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the sole option for children in the U.S. The CDC estimates that slightly more than half of 12-to-17-year-olds — 13.5 million people — have received two Pfizer shots. Boosters were first made available to 16- and 17-year-olds in December.
Wednesday’s decision made about 5 million younger adolescents who received their last shots in 2021 immediately eligible for boosters.
“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the omicron variant,” Walensky said in the statement. “I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”
Although children tend to not become as seriously ill from COVID-19 as adults, the omicron variant is fueling hospitalizations among children, most of whom are unvaccinated.