AShish Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, predicted on Tuesday that the United States would not be heading for another Covid-19 surge driven by holiday gatherings similar to the Omicron wave in 2021.
“We are in a very different place and we will stay in a different place,” said Jha, who noted that about 90% of Americans have had at least one Covid-19 vaccine and “a large portion of Americans have been infected. “.
Jha, who was speaking at the STAT summit in Boston, added the caveat that there is always a possibility that the virus could mutate significantly – as it did with the Omicron variant – but “I believe that we are in a much better place no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. »
Jha also pointed out that the concept of major Covid-19 restrictions is largely discounted at this stage of the pandemic.
“We’re at a point now where I think if you’re up to date on your vaccines, you have access to treatments…there really shouldn’t be any restrictions on people’s activities,” Jha said. “I live pretty much like I lived in 2019.”
The remarks underscore the White House’s ongoing efforts to move away from defining the Covid-19 pandemic as a permanent emergency. Just two months ago, President Biden told reporters the pandemic was “over.” (Jha did not declare the end of the pandemic, however; he insisted that “too many people are still getting sick and dying.”)
Despite Jha’s confidence, there are signs that the United States is underprepared for another winter surge and that new variants of the virus are evading existing Covid-19 treatments. While Jha has largely downplayed the current toll of the pandemic, he declined to predict when the Biden administration will end the ongoing public health emergency, which will have far-reaching implications for everything from vaccine availability and Covid-19 treatments approved under FDA emergency use authorization to who can remain on Medicaid. Instead, he reiterated that the Biden administration will give 60 days notice before ending the emergency.
“It’s a decision that [health] secretary does,” Jha said. “The secretary will make this decision when he deems that the tools that the [emergency] gives us are no longer needed to protect American lives.