Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, is warning Americans “we shouldn’t be surprised” if a new variant of Covid leads to another winter spike in cases.
“We have to expect that we might very well get another variant that would arise that would escape the immune response that we’ve gotten from the infection and/or the vaccination,” Dr. Fauci said Tuesday during an event at USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
“We are entering the winter months, where whatever the respiratory disease is, there is always the risk of an increase,” he added.
New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen to near their lowest levels this year, according to federal databut we shouldn’t start acting like the pandemic is over, experts say.
“I think it would be a little more suspect to suddenly say we’re done with it,” Dr. Fauci added at the event.
Scientists are tracking a number of new Omicron variants and descendants such as BQ.1 in the UK, BA.2.75 and BA.2.75.2 in India and BA.2.3.20 in Singapore, which could lead to cases this winter.
“I’m pretty sure that at least one of these variants or a combination of them will lead to a new wave of infection,” said Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. said Nature. “And, because they all seem to behave in a similar way, ‘at the end of the day it’s not that important which one of them becomes the next big thing.’
The two worst outbreaks of the pandemic, the Delta and Omicron waves, occurred in January 2021 and 2022, as the winter months pushed more people indoors and spurred holiday travel, making the disease more likely to spread.
More troubling—and more tangible—than the danger of a new variant becoming dominant is the slow pace at which Americans are seeking their latest booster shots.
“The question is not whether we will see an increase in cases and hospitalizations – we will – but by how much,” University of California, San Francisco infectious disease expert Peter-Chin Hong. he said to San Francisco Chronicle.
People getting their souvenirs, plus the high rate of past infections in the US, would mean a new variant could cause only a “modest increase” in cases because of the “highly protected community”, Dr Hong told the newspaper .
Meanwhile, if recall rates remain at a meager 4 percent of eligible patients receiving the new vaccine, that could mean “a bigger wave of cases and hospitalizations,” he added.
“What I’m concerned about is not whether there’s an increase in the micron, but if we don’t get a lot of uptake from the updated vaccine and we continue to see a lot of mutations and we have a variant that comes out that’s really different than anything we’ve seen before,” Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr Allison Arwady. he told NBC Chicago. “This happened last December and January.”
America ranks 16th in the world, and above all other wealthy nations, in terms of Covid deaths per population, according to data from Johns Hopkins Universitybut politicians in Washington are largely acting like the US has managed to overcome the pandemic.
In September, President Joe Biden reportedly shocked his own public health groups by declaring, “The pandemic is over.”
“We still have a problem with Covid” he told CBS. “We’re still doing a lot of work on this… but the pandemic is over.”
(He later clarified that he meant the pandemic was no longer “where it was” in the past.)
Almost all US states and cities have dropped their mask mandates, and earlier this year, a federal court in Florida ended the federal mask mandate for interstate transit facilities.
Republicans in Congress have rejected the White House’s request for an additional $22.4 billion in Covid funding.
“It’s not about power. you have the power. It’s not about money. you’ve been given staggering amounts of money,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions member Richard Burr of North Carolina he said during a hearing in mid-September.
As a result, funding for free Covid vaccines could run out as early as January 2023, meaning the coronavirus vaccine will likely become prohibitively unaffordable for those without insurance in the coming months.
As of September, a federal program that sends free home Covid tests also ended.
“It’s potentially history repeating itself. Whether it was the first SARS or Zika or H1N1 in 2009, the story of public health funding is this predictable feast-famine,” said Brent Ewig, director of policy and government relations at the Association of Immunization Managers. he told Roll Call.
Even Biden administration officials themselves don’t seem optimistic about where things are going on the funding front.
This is an obvious move for the kind of collaboration we saw with Operation Warp Speed,” White House Covid-19 Coordinator Ashish Jha told POLITICO, referring to the Trump administration’s public-private partnership to develop the original Covid vaccines .
Without an infusion of funding for vaccines and new research, the US will soon find itself in a “very difficult situation,” he continued.
“Our toolbox is dry because every company in America understands that the US government doesn’t have the funding to do this,” he said.