Will Biden listen?
In different opinion pieces, four members of the advisory board tasked with helping President Biden navigate his transition into office have urged President Biden to change course in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The articles which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association were written by Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. David Michaels, Dr. Rick Bright, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.
In a piece co-authored by oncologist Dr. Emanuel and infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, the specialists wrote that given “the omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2 demonstrates, COVID-19 is here to stay,” President Biden should update his COVID-19 response national strategy.
The piece continued by highlighting that “the goal for the ‘new normal” would not include a ‘zero COVID’ strategy in which the disease is eradicated or eliminated. Saying that neither the vaccine nor previous infection appeared to provide lifelong immunity and in the case of the vaccine did not provide “sterilizing immunity.” Pointing out that infectious diseases could not be eradicated without “long-term immunity following infection or vaccination.”
Suggesting an alternative the specialists explained that the “new normal” would be to recognize SARS-CoV-2 was just one of “several circulating respiratory viruses” and that people would have to adapt to COVID-19 being a threat alongside others like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Given that COVID-19 is still more serious than other respiratory illnesses, the two suggested that the Biden administration develop infrastructure that collects “comprehensive information on respiratory viral infections, hospitalizations, deaths, disease-specific outcomes, and immunizations.” Before suggesting that there should be a “permanent public health implementation workforce” to address issues related to the virus.
In a separate article, co-authored by oncologist Dr. Emanuel, epidemiologist Dr. Michaels, and vaccine researcher and immunologist Dr. Bright. The experts pointed out how the Biden administration’s current strategy was “seriously flawed” before suggesting that the “new normal” could be achieved if the U.S. sets up “a comprehensive, permanently funded system for testing, surveillance, and mitigation measures that does not currently exist.”
When queried about the articles in a Thursday (January 6th) press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that she had not read the articles. However, she emphasized that Biden’s goal remained to defeat the virus.