The White House resumed its coronavirus briefings Wednesday after a six-week hiatus as Covid-19 cases surged across the country, with the new head of the Covid response asking Congress for additional funds to pay for vaccines and treatments.
“I want to make sure we have enough resources so we can buy enough vaccines for every American. I find that absolutely critical. We don’t have the resources to do it right now,” said Ashish Jha, the new White House coronavirus response coordinator who replaced Jeff Zients in March. “So without additional funding from Congress, we won’t be able to buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one.”
The last White House coronavirus briefing was on April 5. Since then, various mask requirements have been lifted across the country, including on planes, trains and cars.
Jha explained that the administration has not halted the fight against the virus but noted that it has increased the rapid test kits allocated to each household from four to eight kits. “We know there are multi-generational households, we know there are households of more than four people and we want to make sure we do as much testing as possible,” he said.
Jha also revealed the government has seen a dramatic increase in the use of the Covid-19 pill Paxlovid, with demand quadrupling in the previous month alone.
“Our latest estimates are that around 20,000 Paxlovid prescriptions are dispensed every day. I think that’s actually a really important reason why, despite the very substantial increase in infections, we haven’t seen a corresponding increase in deaths,” Jha said.
Jha also renewed his request for Congress to approve additional funds to allow the government to buy more vaccines and Covid-19 treatments.
“Unless we get more resources from Congress, we’re going to find in the fall and winter … a time when Americans can look around and see their friends in other countries in Europe and Canada with access to these treatments that Americans wouldn’t have.” .”
The resumption of the briefing comes at a time when the US is marking a painful milestone, with more than 1 million people officially counted as dead since the pandemic began in March 2020, with the actual number likely to be much higher.
The US has one of the highest death rates in the world: 303 deaths from Covid-19 per 100,000 residents, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The huge toll has set the US apart from other wealthy nations in a crisis exacerbated by the country’s entrenched inequality, dysfunctional health care system and strained politics.
“To understand why we’ve had such bad experiences with the pandemic, we need to think about the systemic problems that were already in place when the pandemic hit,” says Steven Woolf, a social epidemiologist and population health researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. said the guard. “And on top of that, the government and the public’s mishandling of the pandemic, frankly.”
According to the New York Times, the country’s daily average of Covid-19 cases surpassed 100,000 for the first time since Feb. 20, up 61% from two weeks ago.
Although the number of deaths has fallen, hospital admissions have increased: by 25% in the past two weeks.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, reiterated the importance of booster shots at the briefing.
“Our vaccine efficacy cohort studies have shown that Covid-19 vaccines generally remain effective in preventing major diseases, including protection against Omicron. However, we also know that protection from Covid-19 vaccines diminishes or offers less protection over time, especially in the Omicron era,” she said.
“This is one of the reasons why booster shots are so important.”