A few months ago, it looked as if the country was finally ready to control the epidemic, after two years of sanctions and billions in government spending. The Biden administration in March unveiled the first national Covid-19 preparation plan to help Americans safely “return to normal,” a strategy to survive the continued presence of the virus and the emergence of new forms.
In response, the elected representatives and most of the country basically sighed, seemingly preferring to move forward and give up the fight. Congress has failed to approve further spending on free tests, treatment and vaccines. Local governments have revoked the order and many people have stopped wearing masks, even inside crowds. Two-thirds of those who waited in line for hours for their initial vaccination seem less willing to go to the pharmacy to get a free booster, leaving themselves more susceptible to the Omicron variant.
The epidemic response has become mild-mannered and functional, not supported by money, urgency or application.
Although the Biden administration has requested আরও 22.5 billion more Covid funds – 100 million potential infection and death wave warnings this fall – the Senate has considered paying less than half. Even that amount has been suspended because lawmakers have linked it to immigration issues. Without these funds, the government will not be able to sustain the programs that have so far effectively leveled the epidemic curve; For example, it cannot buy shots so that all Americans can be vaccinated for free and may need a vaccine in the future.
Tired of policing, many, if not most, stores and workplaces have dropped their mask mandates, even during the growth of local covid. Where they are located, they are often poorly applied.
Similarly, campaigns calling for people to be vaccinated have largely stopped in the case of booster, although many scientists claim that “booster” is not really an add-on but an essential element of protection. It takes three or more shots to complete a full course of vaccination against other diseases (three shots for hepatitis B; four for polio; five for diphtheria). And yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not updated the definition of “fully vaccinated” for air travel in the United States and only “recommends” a booster. Many states define covid vaccine as taking two shots, not three.
The toll of this combined complacency is already clear: in January and February, those who were “fully vaccinated” were responsible for more than 40% of Kovid’s deaths – more than two-thirds of them did not receive a third shot. Covid-19 killed one million Americans – more per capita than any other developed country; A new variant is doubling the case rate in some states; And more than 300 people are dying every day.
The problem here is: public health needs – but not – a sexy narrative. This is because if public health officials are respected, well-funded and allowed to work, the result is: nothing happens. Outbreaks do not lead to epidemics. Patients quit smoking, eat healthier and lose weight. People wear their masks and get their shots. The test is free, convenient and widely available.
But without a good description, the public health infrastructure receives very little attention from politicians and voters – unless an epidemic spreads. It is ignored and lawmakers potentially defend it as soon as a crisis erupts.
Public health is fought without drama or good visuals, and ordinary people go from house to house in lab coats or, perhaps, in streetwear, for things like vaccine delivery and the search for contact.
Of course, there are structural problems that have hampered the epidemic response of the CDC and the FDA, such as our leading public health organizations. Their pace is slow, their technology is outdated, former President Donald Trump has devalued and disrespected them, and perhaps most importantly, the local public health department’s command lines have proved weak or non-existent.
After 9/11, many states, counties and cities – to save money or redirect to counterterrorism efforts – pushed public health departments to the brink of extinction and vacated them. Since the 2008 recession, at least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have been cut, according to a KHN and Associated Press analysis. This is partly because states and cities have not been able to spend much of the $ 2.25 billion allocated by the Biden administration in March 2021 to help reduce covid inequality. Now there are very few on-the-ground public health officials who know how to spend it.
We see the value of lifeboats, although we hope the sea liners will never sink. We gladly fund the fire inspection, although we hope our homes will not be threatened by fire. Why don’t we apply the same thinking to our investments in the local health department?
Two years ago, pre-vaccinations, pictures of people dying on ventilators saying goodbye to iPads, doctors in hazmat suits, and portable morgues in hospital parking lots briefly assigned everyone in need of public health care, and Congress moved forward.
Now, with massive shelling, the war in Ukraine, and economic challenges dominating the focus on inflation, the masses have moved on. But the threat did not go away. And a price must be paid for unnecessary illness, death and obstruction if the nation does not take the necessary steps to contain the inevitable covid waves.
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