25.02.2024

White House’s top doctor undermines Biden and urges Americans to get booster

The White House’s lead Covid chief said that the pandemic is not over, contradicting statements made by President Joe Biden last month.

Dr Ashish Jha, the country’s COVID-19 response coordinator, issued the warning in response to the US’ sluggish booster vaccine uptake.

‘Covid is not over, there is a lot of work to do,’ he told a White House press briefing Tuesday.

‘We still have 300 to 400 Americans dying every day, tens of thousands of people getting infected every day, there is a lot of work to do.

Covid cases and deaths across America have been in freefall for months but many experts are concerned about a fresh surge this winter.

Dr Jha’s words counter that of President Biden, who declared last month the pandemic was ‘over’ – though his aides walked back the comments in the following days.

It is just the latest example of officials flip-flopping on communication about the Covid situation. Earlier this year, Dr Anthony Fauci told PBS Newshour the pandemic was over before going back on his words days later.

Dr Ashish Jha (pictured) said that the pandemic is not over during a briefing Tuesday, contradicting President Joe Biden’s words last month

Covid cases have plummeted in recent months, falling from over 100,000 per day in August to around 40,000 per day in mid-October. An expected summer surge of cases did not materialize

The rollout of the bivalent booster shots that were designed to perform better against Omicron variants has largely been a failure to this point.

Most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that only 11 million Americans have receive the jab so far.

Dr Fauci warns of a ‘twindemic’ this winter as CDC data shows influenza cases have quadrupled in two months

Dr Anthony Fauci has warned of a ‘twindemic’ this winter as cases of the flu surge in the US – quadrupling over the past two months.

Latest official data shows there were more than 1,000 patients with flu in the week ending October 1 — up 303 per cent compared to the first week of August.

This is a vast underestimate because the US does not routinely test for influenza in the same way as Covid.

Test positivity — the share of swabs for the virus that are coming back positive — has risen from 0.49 per cent to 2.5 per cent in the same time.

Dr Fauci said Monday that the nation should keep its guard up in the coming months as cases of both the flu and Covid are expected to rise.

Cases and hospitalization for the flu and related illnesses often surge in cold weather months were people spend more time indoors – which makes it easier for viruses to spread.

But Covid cases are currently plummeting in the US. The nation is averaging 42,000 daily cases, dropping more than 60 per cent from the 100,000 per day average in early August.

The flu largely vanished in recent years as viral interference from Covid and pandemic-related restrictions and mask orders stopped its spread.

That represents fewer than 10 per cent of everyone who is eligible for the jabs.

The lack of booster uptake seems to have had little affect on the spread of cases, though.

On August 3, America was recording 118,000 cases per day. That figure has dropped to 40,000 as of October 11.

Dr Jha told the briefing: ‘What we know is that if we want to keep people safe and protect them from serious illness, which is obviously priority number one, the number one thing that people need to do is get vaccinated.’

He urged Americans to get the additional shot before Halloween so it would be fully effective in their body for Thanksgiving gatherings.

This contradicts statements by President Biden last month, who told CBS’ 60 minutes: ‘The pandemic is over.

‘We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.

‘If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it’s changing.’

America’s overall vaccination rate is relatively high, with 80 per cent of the overall population and 90 per cent of adults having received at least one shot.

But the additional booster doses have never proved to have appeal among the American population.

Third doses were rolled out the public just over a year ago, yet still only 50 per cent of the population has gotten those shots.

Fourth doses have only been taken up by a third of eligible Americans who have been triple-vaxxed.

Yet Covid deaths remain stable and have not reached previous heights seen earlier in the outbreak.

Around 400 Americans are dying from the virus on average each day currently – a figure that has remained broadly the same throughout this summer.

Dr Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said in April to PBS Newshour that ‘we are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase.

‘Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.

‘So, if you’re saying, are we out of the pandemic phase in this country, we are. What we hope to do, I don’t believe — and I have spoken about this widely — we’re not going to eradicate this virus.’

He would walk the comments back after backlash from others in the field.

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