January 18, 2022

Testing and Vaccines, Not Lockdowns

5 min read

Because the nation is gripped by skyrocketing COVID-19 an infection charges solely days earlier than the winter holidays, President Joe Biden on Tuesday introduced his newest plan to forestall what he has warned may very well be “a winter of severe illness and death.”

“Your selection is not only a selection about you—it impacts different folks,” Biden mentioned in remarks from the White Home, the tone of which alternated between lecturing Individuals to observe public well being tips and pleading with the unvaccinated to do their “patriotic responsibility” by getting immunized. “You’re placing different folks in danger. Your family members, your folks, neighbors, strangers you run into, and your selection could be the distinction between life or dying.”

Biden’s apparent frustration with the refusal of many Individuals to get vaccinated matched gorgeous numbers from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention exhibiting document instances of recent every day infections on Monday—almost 300,000 folks—with no signal of stopping. The Omicron variant’s transmissibility and contagiousness has shocked public well being consultants, together with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, who has referred to as the virus’ capability to unfold “extraordinary.”

“It will be a troublesome few weeks, months, as we get deeper into the winter,” Fauci mentioned on CNN on Sunday.

Biden’s plan—the most recent in a long series of new plans to prevent the spread of the virus with combined outcomes to this point—will embrace dispatching 1,000 navy medical personnel to hospitals which were stretched beyond capacity even earlier than Omicron’s arrival, in addition to buying 500 million fast exams to be distributed to the general public at zero price. (The fast exams thought was one his administration ridiculed only some weeks in the past.)

However the exams is not going to be obtainable till January, senior officers informed reporters on a Monday night time briefing name earlier than the president’s speech, and given the charges of fast take a look at manufacturing domestically, they may virtually actually not be prepared . The entire capability for at-home fast take a look at manufacturing in the US is presently solely 200 million a month, even with the implementation of the Protection Manufacturing Act to extend capability.

Requested concerning the doubtless delay in releasing the half-billion fast exams, White Home press secretary Jen Psaki informed reporters forward of Biden’s speech that “we’ve quadrupled, over the previous couple of months, our testing capability,” and that whereas many particulars of the testing launch are nonetheless undecided—together with what number of exams a family can order—the administration is “working by means of all these varied vital particulars proper now.”

“We’re doing this as shortly as attainable,” Psaki mentioned.

Requested whether or not the delay in testing availability was a “failure,” given the large surge in instances and hospitalizations previously week, Biden mentioned that the federal government might by no means have adequately ready for Omicron’s devastation.

“COVID is spreading so quickly you discover it simply occurred virtually in a single day,” Biden mentioned. “The alarm bell went off. I don’t assume anyone anticipated that this was going to be as quickly spreading because it did… The Omicron virus unfold extra quickly than anyone thought.”

Biden’s announcement of the brand new testing technique, which incorporates the creation of recent federal testing websites across the nation, was a optimistic improvement for medical and illness specialists.

“The steps to be introduced by President Biden are welcome and vital,” mentioned Dr. Timothy Brewer, a medical physician and a professor of epidemiology at UCLA’s Fielding College of Public Well being and of Medication. “For instance, there are knowledge exhibiting that COVID-19 mortality was greater in hospitals which were overwhelmed in contrast with these the place capability has not been exceeded. Due to this fact, steps to forestall hospitals and employees from being overloaded ought to save lives.”

However there are issues that Biden’s response—which started and concluded with one more plea for unvaccinated folks to get their immunizations after almost a 12 months—nonetheless focuses an excessive amount of on particular person habits to resolve a societal disaster.

The president did take purpose at main purveyors of disinformation concerning the pandemic on cable information and social media, calling their actions “harmful” for public well being and demanding they “cease it, cease it now.”

“These corporations and personalities are earning money by peddling lies and permitting misinformation that may kill their very own clients and their very own supporters,” Biden mentioned forcefully. “It’s fallacious. It’s immoral.”

In his speech, Biden returned to the identical message he’s been delivering to Individuals for months: “Get vaccinated now—it’s free, it’s handy. I promise you, it saves the lives.”

“Trustworthy to God,” Biden continued, “I consider it your patriotic responsibility.”

Biden mentioned that if the folks you spend the vacations with are vaccinated, “notably when you’ve gotten your booster shot,” then it is best to really feel snug celebrating Christmas and the vacations as deliberate.

The Biden administration has steadfastly refused to implement issues like vaccination requirements for domestic air travel, focusing as an alternative on encouraging folks to hunt out boosters and to encourage their family and friends to take action as effectively. However given the political realities of COVID-regulation fatigue and vaccine-averse Individuals, there’s not far more that may be achieved, Brewer mentioned.

“Requiring vaccinations and boosters for each eligible particular person could be probably the most prudent and certain efficient one, however that possibility has run into political and authorized challenges on this nation. Hopefully, people who’ve chosen to not be vaccinated but will reassess their choice contemplating omicron’s fast unfold around the globe and throughout the nation.”

The White Home has pushed back aggressively concerning the potential for lockdowns, the mere prospect of which has despatched shares plummeting in latest days

“This isn’t a speech about locking the nation down,” Psaki informed reporters on Monday. “This can be a speech outlining and being instantly clear with the American folks about the advantages of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to take to extend entry, improve testing, and the dangers posed to unvaccinated people.”

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