Biden's Covid strategy to return to normal faces new challenges as funding stalls

His administration is preparing for a new wave in U.S. Covid infection in the coming weeks, without any key funding or vital tools.

Biden's Covid strategy to return to normal faces new challenges as funding stalls

WASHINGTON -- While President Joe Biden urges Americans to return to preandemic lifestyles in his speech, his administration is anticipating a new wave U.S. Covid infection in the coming weeks without essential funding and other tools.

The administration's plan to address the next stage of the pandemic, when Americans can return home and resume their daily activities, was built on the assumption that Congress would give it billions of dollars for vaccines, testing, and treatments. After Congress cut $15.6 billion in Covid response funds from the huge government funding package, this money seems to be at risk.

Officials at the White House claim they don't have a backup plan and are already making cuts. A new variant, called BA.2, is spreading across the U.S., and has already caused an increase in hospitalizations in Europe.

Eric Topol (executive vice president, Scripps Research) stated that "we are somewhere between denial or delusional thinking." "We need to be preparing, we shouldn't be cutting funding now, this will hit us hard.

Already, the federal government is cutting back on Covid treatment purchases, reducing shipments of monoclonal antibody to the states by 30% next week. It also stated that a program to provide testing and treatments to the uninsured would end next month.

Pfizer's new, highly effective treatment is in short supply. A "test to treat" program is being established to enable people to be tested at a pharmacy to receive the medication.

"We need the money. A senior administration official stated that there are immediate, near-term consequences. Some of these we have to act on this week. "So time is not on the side of us. We require the funds immediately.

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the vaccine for children younger than 5 years, something officials had anticipated by February's end. The Food and Drug Administration is currently examining the possibility that older adults may need another dose of vaccine to maintain high levels of antibody production. Even if the fourth dose is approved, the administration claims it doesn't have enough money for additional booster doses for each American.

The virus was particularly severe at the White House where White House staffers don't wear masks anymore. On Tuesday, Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman tested positive. Biden briefly reconnected with the Irish prime minster at a gala on Wednesday night before the prime minister was removed from the event after his Covid test returned positive.

There are signs that the U.S. is seeing an increase in cases, despite the West Wing's decline. Although the number of new infections reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is declining, there are indications that an increase in Covid testing at home could be distorting those data. One third of wastewater monitoring websites showed an increase in Covid cases between March 1 and March 10. The U.S. has not seen an increase in hospitalizations. However, in the past these numbers were a poor indicator.

The president has encouraged Americans to return to work, and the CDC has suggested that most Americans can go unmasked, but administration officials admit that there could be another increase in cases.

Jen Psaki, press secretary, stated that Covid has not disrupted some of the lives of certain communities as much as it did a few weeks back. It is not gone. This variant seems to be an example of that.

Because so many people were infected by that wave, there are signs that another wave may not be as deadly as the one that hit the country this summer. However, the government is not expected to make significant changes to its policies.

"The only change, at least until hospitals fill up substantially, is that it will be much more of an option where you can protect yourself if necessary. Andy Slavitt said that you have the tools, you have masks and you can take a test. He was responsible for coordinating the administration's pandemic response during Biden's first-year.

Republicans are skeptical about new Covid funding

White House officials have made dozens of calls to members of Congress to try to get the funding. However, Biden has not yet taken part in these efforts. Biden signed the funding bill, which was supposed to include the money. He didn't mention the missing funds and hasn’t met with lawmakers to push for the money.

After agreeing initially on a $15.6 million infusion for virus relief, Congress withdrew the money last week. It faced Republican opposition and defections by a small group of Democrats who were opposed to paying for it through redirecting existing funds. Some Democratic lawmakers claim that party leaders did not run the partial pay-for.

"I would only say that if we had a discussion about it. It would have been clear, I believe, that this strategy would not work and that we would need other options," stated Rep. Pramila Japayal (D-Wash).

As a result, legislators are left without a clear plan for additional Covid money. The best vehicle to promote it has been lost. To pass, the effort will require a compromise that can win over both House Democrats and at least 10 Senate Republicans.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said that she was very disappointed by the decision to reduce the funds. She claimed that the $15.6 billion compromise was insufficient.

"I believe we need all the money possible to be able to fight Covid. Pelosi stated that we don't need another variant. Transmission must be stopped. Transmission can create variants. Variants can be different and present different challenges. This is not something to be taken lightly.

She stated that Congress should approve the funding. However, she acknowledged that lawmakers will have to offset it and not add to the debt.

The idea is welcomed by GOP senators. Leaders of the Caucus say that they want to see an accounting of the expenditures made with existing Covid funds. They prefer to repurpose money already authorized, but not yet spent -- something that could prove problematic for Democratic legislators whose states have plans to spend that money.

"My view, and this is likely the view of most members of our committees is that we had a chance last week to get it and that the House progressive wings blew it up. "They torpedoed" Senator Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. He said, "Unless it's paid and it's something 10 Republicans will vote in favor of, it's difficult to see how the Senate passes it." "I believe that our members will say to us to repurpose existing money."

Senator Roy Blunt (Republican from Missouri), an appropriator and member of the party leadership said that there are many questions my colleagues have about where all the Covid funding went.

"The administration should be very simple: Here are the items we have spent the money on and here are the remaining categories. Blount stated that it doesn't matter if the money has been distributed, but it's been used for these purposes. "And then, how do they make a valid case for what they think they require?"

The political calculations of Democrats are also important. Because they won the 2020 election on the basis of defeating the virus, they control both the White House and Congress. Although the Covid situation has improved after the omicron waves, some fear that Democrats will be held responsible if another variant strikes this season.

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a standalone Covid relief law. He stated that the federal government has "completely exhausted public health money" in the American Rescue Plan, and that it "must pass additional Covid financing" to support therapeutics, testing, and vaccines.

He said, "Experience has shown us that new variants are possible if we aren’t ready."

CORRECTION (March 20, 2020, 10 a.m. ET: An earlier version of this article mispelled the name of an ex-pandemic response coordinator for the Biden administration. He is Andy Slavitt and not Slavit.


 

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