President Joe Biden reportedly plans to inform the American public of a major overhaul to his administration’s COVID-19 strategy during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
ABC News reported Thursday, “In a private online meeting, Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator on the federal COVID response, led the group in discussing potential trajectories in the pandemic — from the best case scenario that the virus evolves into a mild flu-like illness, to the worst case that an aggressive new variant could evade effectiveness of the vaccine.”
“The overall consensus was that COVID has fundamentally altered U.S. public health,” the report said of the Wednesday meeting.
The outlet reported that one person involved in the effort said, “There’s no scenario where we say, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s go back to normal.’”
Among those in attendance were “Zients; David Kessler, Biden’s chief scientific adviser; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and medical ethicist with the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; Dr. Luciana Borio, a former senior official at the National Security Council and former acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration now with the Council on Foreign Relations; and David Michaels, an epidemiologist and former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration now with George Washington University’s School of Public Health,” according to ABC News.
The overall thrust of Biden’s message to the American public Tuesday is expected to be that the virus poses less of a threat now thanks to vaccines, booster shots, testing and therapeutics.
In a briefing on Feb. 16, Zients said, “We’re moving toward a time when COVID isn’t a crisis but is something we can protect against and treat.”
“And while we’re not where we all want to be yet, we’re encouraged by the dramatic declines we’re seeing in cases and hospitalizations nationwide,” he said.
“While we’re not where we all want to be yet, we’re encouraged by the dramatic declines we’re seeing in cases and hospitalizations nationwide,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients says. https://t.co/PIF3GDlOIu pic.twitter.com/RypbQdOCmk
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 16, 2022
The New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker shows the number of cases has essentially returned to the October pre-omicron variant surge levels of about 70,000 cases a day from a peak in January of over 800,000.
Another reason the virus poses less of a threat is that large numbers of Americans were infected with and recovered from the omicron variant, meaning they will likely have natural immunity to reinfection for many months.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month shows that those who have recovered from COVID-19 have more protection against infection than those who have only been vaccinated.
Dr. Marty Makary, a professor and researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote in a commentary for The Wall Street Journal last month that “the CDC released data from New York and California, which demonstrated natural immunity was 2.8 times as effective in preventing hospitalization and 3.3 to 4.7 times as effective in preventing Covid infection compared with vaccination.”
Makary further noted the National Institutes of Health resisted acknowledging natural immunity.
“Because of the NIH’s inaction, my Johns Hopkins colleagues and I conducted the study. We found that among 295 unvaccinated people who previously had Covid, antibodies were present in 99 percent of them up to nearly two years after infection,” he wrote.
Monica Gandhi, an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Bloomberg last month, “I hope this variant creates profound immunity in the population.”
“It will hopefully end the pandemic,” she said.