White House Begins Overhaul of COVID-19 Strategy

Carolyn Crist

February 25, 2022

The White House has begun a sweeping overhaul of its COVID-19 strategy as the U.S. moves out of pandemic crisis mode and into a more manageable phase, according to ABC News.

The new strategy is expected to acknowledge that the coronavirus is becoming a less urgent threat to Americans overall due to access to vaccines, testing, and therapeutics.

Biden administration officials met with prominent pandemic experts in a private online meeting on Wednesday to discuss the potential paths forward and how to be prepared, ABC News reported.

The potential trajectories include the best-case scenario that the coronavirus evolves into a mild, flu-like illness, and the worst-case scenario that a dangerous, new variant could evade vaccines, the news outlet reported.

Overall, the general agreement among officials and experts was that the pandemic has changed public health policy in the country.

"There's no scenario where we say, 'Oh my gosh, let's go back to normal,' " one participant said, ABC News reported.

Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator for the federal pandemic response, led the discussion. Others in attendance included David Kessler, MD, a former FDA commissioner and chief scientific adviser of COVID-19 response; Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, an oncologist and medical ethicist with the University of Pennsylvania; Michael Osterholm, MD, director of the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; Luciana Borio, MD, a former senior official at the National Security Council and former acting chief scientist at the FDA now with the Council on Foreign Relations; and David Michaels, an epidemiologist and former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now with George Washington University's School of Public Health.

Wednesday's meeting was part of a series of outreach efforts, the White House said, which had included discussions with governors and business leaders about necessary resources and the supply chain.

The timing of the new White House strategy was unclear as the Russia invasion escalated in Ukraine on Thursday, ABC News reported. Biden planned to speak about the new approach in his State of the Union address on March 1.

On Thursday, the White House released a plan to improve American manufacturing and secure critical supply chains in 2022. As part of the plan, seven cabinet agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, published reports that identify key weaknesses in some of the nation's most crucial supply chains.

In its supply chain report, the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been critical for the pandemic response, included information about personal protective equipment, medical equipment, testing, medications, and vaccines.

"At the beginning of the COVID-19 response, shortages of [personal protective equipment] and [durable medical equipment] and an absence of testing and diagnostics hampered efforts to combat and contain the spread of the virus," the department wrote in the report's conclusion.

"These challenges highlighted pre-existing issues in the public health supply chain and industrial base, such as the lack of on- or near-shore manufacturing and sourcing for raw materials and finished medical products," the department wrote. "Unless the U.S. government takes action to create a more resilient public health supply chain, we may experience similar disruptions during a future public health emergency."

Sources:

ABC News: "White House overhauling COVID strategy as nation moves out of pandemic crisis."

White House: "The Biden-Harris Plan to Revitalize American Manufacturing and Secure Critical Supply Chains in 2022."

Department of Health and Human Services: "Public Health Supply Chain and Industrial Base One-Year Report."

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