You’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t over COVID pandemic at this point, but even two years in, it’s clearer than ever the virus is not done with us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US is still seeing an average of more than 100,000 new infections every single day, despite an 8.5 percent decrease in cases this week compared to the week prior. Even more concerning is the fact that hospitalizations are still climbing significantly, with the CDC reporting a nearly 5 percent increase in COVID-based hospital admissions this week. And though COVID deaths are thankfully not on the rise, health officials are concerned that could change. Read on to find out what one top COVID expert said could be worst case scenario for the future of the pandemic.
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As COVID continues to infect millions of thousands across the country, many experts and officials have already cast a worried look at the upcoming fall and winter season. In early May, a senior official for the Biden administration revealed that it is estimated the US could see 100 million COVID infections this fall and winter, The Washington Post reported.
According to experts, a combination of factors including waning immunity from both vaccines and infections, loosened restrictions, and the rise of new variants play into this grim projection. Unlike what we’re seeing with rising cases right now, the official said that this COVID surge would likely lead to a significant wave of deaths as well.
During a White House press briefing on June 2, White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, revealed that he has concerns about what the pandemic will look like for the US later this year. “As we plan the fall and winter, and look at a variety of different scenarios, that’s where I started getting very, very concerned,” he admitted.
According to the infectious disease expert, the worst case scenario is that the US could run out of necessary supplies at the same time a COVID surge hits. “If you want to ask what keeps me awake at night, it is that we are going to run out of vaccines,” Jha warned.
He added, “We’re not going to be able to have enough of the next generation of vaccines. We’re going to run out of treatments. And we’re going to run out of diagnostic tests, probably in the late fall into winter, if we end up having a significant surge of infections.”
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Over the last the few months, the Biden administration has been warning that the US is in need of more COVID funding from Congress. The White House initially requested $22.5 billion in March, but Congress knocked that number down to $10 billion before it was ultimately blocked by Republican senators in April, according to PBS. Now there is a stalemate on any type of COVID funding from Congress.
“We will not have the tools for the fall and winter, unless Congress steps up and funds us,” Jha warned during the press briefing. “There certainly are models out there that suggest that we could have a sizable wave of infections in the fall and winter, especially if we don’t have a vaccination campaign in the fall and winter. If we run out of treatments, if we don’t ‘t have enough diagnostic tests, we could be looking at a more complicated situation.”
With infections still high and a staggering number of vaccines and boosters to be given out, many may be wondering why the White House is not yet sounding the alarm.
Jha made it clear that there’s no cause for immediate panic, because our supplies are currently quite robust as a result of “prior funding” allowing the US to purchase a substantial amount of both vaccines and therapeutics earlier. “So, I am very confident that whatever happens this summer, we will have enough tools, tests, treatments, vaccines to get us through the summer,” he explained. “I think we have the tools for the summer.”
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