The US is getting closer to a time when COVID-19 is ‘no longer a crisis,’ a White House official says
- US officials on Wednesday expressed optimisim about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.
- One, Jeff Zients, noted the declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported in the US.
- The US is reporting about 147,000 cases a day on average, down about 40% over the past week.
US health officials are indicating the country is nearing a time when COVID-19 is “no longer a crisis,” as one put it.
Speaking at a press briefing Wednesday, Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said: “We’ve been clear that, as a country, we’re making strong progress toward moving to a time when COVID is no longer a crisis.”
“Cases and hospitalizations are coming down but are still at elevated levels,” he said.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Omicron cases were declining. “We are all cautiously optimistic about the trajectory we are on,” she said.
The US is reporting a weekly average of 47,000 cases a day, a decrease of about 40% over the previous week, Walensky said. Hospitalizations have dropped by about 28% to a seven-day average of 9,500 a day over the same time period, she said.
COVID-19 cases surged in the US after the first cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant were detected December 1. By mid-January, more than 800,000 cases a day were being reported on average, according to CDC data.
But despite the high number of cases, relatively lower hospitalization and death rates have been recorded, with experts saying Omicron appears to be less deadly than previous dominant variants.
In light of declining cases and hospitalization, all guidance is now under review, including on wearing masks, Walensky said Wednesday.
“I know that everyone is anxious to move beyond this pandemic and some of the ways we have had to change the way we live over the last two years,” she said.
Walensky cautioned that, for masks, there would always be certain times when they would be recommended, “regardless of the level of disease burden in the community” — such as when feeling unwell or during the 10 days after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Walensky didn’t give a time frame for when guidance would be updated.
Zients said any decisions would be driven by public health and science. “I’ll just say that CDC is clearly in the lead here on both the substance and the timing of masking guidance,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said in the briefing that vaccines and boosters would be “critical” in maintaining the downward trajectory, particularly of severe disease leading to hospitalization.
The optimistic predictions from the CDC align with those from Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who said Wednesday that it was “reasonable” to consider the COVID-19 pandemic almost over, citing a belief that the coronavirus was most likely to evolve to be less virulent than Omicron.
Other experts have urged caution.
Ashish Jha, the dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Twitter on Wednesday that there was “no guarantee” future variants would be less virulent.
“A large surge can be deadly,” he said, adding that the focus should be on getting more people vaccinated and boosted ahead of any future surge.
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