Entertainment

‘We cannot afford to let down our guard’: NIH boss says the US could see 1 million cases per day


Outgoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins says the US could see one million COVID-19 cases per day as new shapeshifting variants take hold and cases snowball.

Collins’ forecast comes as the highly-contagious Omicron iteration spreads like wildfire throughout the nation and the Delta variant continues to sicken masses of people ahead of the winter holidays.

Confirmed cases of Omicron reached 830 as of Saturday morning – a 50 per cent increase from Friday – and the variant has been detected in nearly every state. 

During the week ending December 18, 127,692 overall cases were reported on average throughout the US, but Collins warned that figure could swell to one million per day.

‘We cannot afford to let down our guard,’ Collins told NPR. 

‘Even if it has a somewhat lower risk of severity, we could be having a million cases a day if we’re not really attentive to all of those mitigation strategies.’

On average, 1,290 people have died from the virus daily during the past week; the virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans since the pandemic began.

More than 50.7 million others have contracted the virus. 

Since the start of December, both U.S. COVID cases and deaths have risen about 50 percent and the number of hospitalized COVID patients climbed 26 percent, according to a Reuters tally.

During the week ending December 18, 127,692 daily COVID-19 cases were reported on average throughout the US

On average, 1,290 people have died from the virus daily during the past week; the virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans since the pandemic began

On average, 1,290 people have died from the virus daily during the past week; the virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans since the pandemic began

Outgoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins says the US could ultimately see 1 million COVID-19 cases per day

Outgoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins says the US could ultimately see 1 million COVID-19 cases per day

Collins said the if Americans don’t take all possible precautions, the figures could become disproportionately worse.

‘I know people are tired of this,’ he told NPR‘s Scott Detrow. ‘I’m tired of it too, believe me. But the virus is not tired of us. It’s having a great old time changing its shape every couple of months, coming up with new variants and figuring out ways to be even more contagious.’

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech Tuesday about the fast-spreading variant and plans to combat it, hammering home his message to unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and for those who are vaccinated to get a booster.

Biden’s administration has 60 emergency response teams on hand to backup the nation’s already-overburdened hospitals in the event hospitalizations surge, Collins said.

‘I expect those surge teams are going to be busy – already that’s been put in place in some instances because of delta – and I’m not going to be surprised if there’s even more of a demand in the next month or two,’ he said. 

The CDC estimates that Omicron accounts for at least 13 percent of all new cases in New York, which on Friday recorded its highest single-day tally of new Covid-19 cases ever at 21,027

The CDC estimates that Omicron accounts for at least 13 percent of all new cases in New York, which on Friday recorded its highest single-day tally of new Covid-19 cases ever at 21,027

Pictured: Crowds line up in New York City's Times Square on December 18  to get tested for COVID-19 as cases sharply rise in the city ahead of the holidays.

Pictured: Crowds line up in New York City’s Times Square on December 18  to get tested for COVID-19 as cases sharply rise in the city ahead of the holidays.

Biden’s chief medical advisor on Sunday contradicted Vice President Kamala Harris, who had claimed that no one saw the Omicron variant coming.

‘We did. We definitely saw variants coming,’ said Dr Anthony Fauci, after being read Harris’s quote.

On Friday she told The Los Angeles Times: ‘We didn’t see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see Delta coming.

Tthe virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans since the pandemic began

Tthe virus has killed more than 800,000 Americans since the pandemic began

‘We didn’t see Omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.’

Fauci said that Harris was mistaken – but he accepted that Omicron’s potency had not been forecast.

‘What was not anticipated was the extent of the mutations and the amino acid substitutions in Omicron, that is really is unprecedented and came out of nowhere,’ Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper, on State of the Union.

‘When you have a virus which has 50 mutations.

‘To me that is really quite unprecedented so that is something you would not have anticipated.’

Collins also chimed in on the issue, saying that while infectious disease experts expected another mutation on the heels of the Delta variant, it didn’t predict expect a vastly different variant to emerge.

‘We expected it to be Delta-plus,’ Collins said. 

‘Instead what we got was Omicron which bears no relationship to any of the previous strains and it does mean we are dealing with a virus that is really quite sufficiently different, that does clearly stress the immune system’s ability to respond to it and making this a little tougher than we thought it would be.’

About a year ago, Biden’s predicted that Christmas 2021 would be ‘almost normal,’ a forecast Fauci said was ‘understandable’ at the time. 

He stressed the need to get vaccinated and boosted – ‘particularly in the situation we are now in, with Omicron.’

Fauci later told NBC’s Meet the Press that ‘the real problem’ for the U.S. hospital system is that ‘we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.’

The Omiccron variant has been detected in nearly every state, except Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana, and Vermont

The Omiccron variant has been detected in nearly every state, except Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana, and Vermont

Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, Kansas and Wyoming confirmed new Omicron cases, bringing the total to 45 states.

The CDC estimates that Omicron accounts for at least 13 percent of all new cases in New York, which on Friday recorded its highest single-day tally of new Covid-19 cases ever at 21,027.

The Big Apple has been particularly hard-hit, again, with the number of cases doubling in three days.

Earlier this week, Governor Kathy Hochul reinstated controversial mask mandates for most indoor venues.

The rise in cases in the past three days caused Dr. Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top medical advisor, to tweet ‘we’ve never seen this before in New York City.’

Testing has now confirmed the presence of Omicron in every US state except for Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana, and Vermont, though the eventual arrival of the highly transmissible variant in every state seems assured.

Highly vaccinated states in the Northeast seem to be struggling the most at the moment as cold weather, waning immunity and the new variant all contribute to a new case surge.

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island also recorded record high daily cases this week.

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech Tuesday about the fast-spreading variant and plans to combat it, hammering home his message to unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and for those who are vaccinated to get a booster

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech Tuesday about the fast-spreading variant and plans to combat it, hammering home his message to unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and for those who are vaccinated to get a booster

In Ohio, more than a thousand members with the National Guard were called in to provide assistance for medical facilities as the state was facing staffing shortages in their hospitals.

In Nebraska, medical facilities were forced to ration treatment on non-COVID patients as hospital beds continue to grow scarce due to the growing number of cases.

In the past month, 60,000 patients have been newly treated in hospitals across the country with doctors and officials urging the United States’ unvaccinated population – 39% of Americans – to receive the shot in order to create space for non-COVID patients.

This increase has spiked hospitalization rates in various Midwestern states, as well as California, and there are 67,306 patients currently treated nationally.

 

The presence of the new Omicron variant, which is believed to be responsible for the most recent surge, has so far been identified in 830 cases across the country in 44 states.

The surge in recent cases is a 40 percent increase from November’s numbers, with 118,717 cases being reported each day.

The hospitalization admissions rate in the U.K. has also increased in the past week with a reported 7.06 patients per 100,000 people.

In South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected, there have been about 7,600 people currently admitted into the hospital nearly a month after the country announced the presence of the new strain.

Despite his warning, NIH boss Collins said he’ll go forward with plans to host a Christmas brunch, albeit with precautions.

‘We were planning to invite some of the trainees at NIH who are far from home to come for a brunch on Christmas Day at our house if they’re all fully vaccinated and boosted,’ he said. 

‘Still planning to go forward, very carefully, with a small group, and everybody will be wearing masks except when they’re eating.’ 

Infectious disease experts - including Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci - say more access to COVID-19 testing is necessary

Infectious disease experts – including Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci – say more access to COVID-19 testing is necessary

Fauci said that there needed to be more at-home testing.

‘We are going to see a significant stress, in some regions, of the hospital system,’ he said.

‘This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days.’

TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS ROOM EXCHANGE:

And I have one quick question on testing. Last week, obviously, the President explained some ramp-up in testing, but there are still a lot of countries, like Germany and the UK and South Korea, that basically have massive testing, free of charge or for a nominal fee. Why can’t that be done in the United States?

PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, you know, we have eight tests that have been approved by the FDA here. We see that as the gold standard. Whether or not all of those tests would meet that standard is a question for the scientists and medical experts, but I don’t suspect they would.

Our objective is to continue to increase accessibility and decrease costs. And if you look at what we’ve done over the course of time, we’ve quadrupled the size of our testing plan, we’ve cut the cost significantly over the past few months, and this effort to push — to ensure — ensures you’re able to get your tests refunded means 150 million Americans will be able to get free tests.

Q That’s kind of complicated though. Why not just make them free and give them out to — and have them available everywhere?

PSAKI: Should we just send one to every American?

Q Maybe. I’m just asking you — there are other countries —

PSAKI: Then what — then what happens if you — if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?

Q I don’t know. All I know is that other countries seem to be making them available for — in greater quantities, for less money.

PSAKI: Well, I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right?

Every country is going to do that differently. And I was just noting that, again, our tests go through the FDA approval process. That’s not the same process that — it doesn’t work that way in every single country. But what we’re working to do here is build on what we’ve done to date and continue to build out our testing capacity, because, Mara, we absolutely recognize that this is a key component of fighting the virus. 

He said Omicron ‘is going to take over’ and that ‘we are going to be in for some significant difficulties’.

Fauci added: ‘It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a tough few weeks and months, as we head more into the winter.’

But, he said he thought schools could stay open.

‘Right now we can keep the children in schools safely. What the CDC came out a few days ago was the Test to Stay system, and it does work,’ he said.

‘We are trying as best we can to keep the schools open.

‘I believe that even with the stress of what we are feeling now, we can keep the schools open.’

He said they were ‘trying to get a veil of protection over the country’, and that vaccination was ‘an absolutely essential part of the process’ – but masking and testing was also vital.

‘Testing is absolutely essential,’ he said. ‘Particularly the point of care, where you can do testing yourself and get a result in 15 minutes.

‘It’s more than one thing. It’s a comprehensive approach.’

On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, mocked the idea of at-home tests being distributed for free – as is the case in multiple other countries.

Asked why the U.S. was not doing the same, Psaki replied: ‘Should we just send one to every American?’

‘Maybe,’ the reporter replied, before again trying to point out the example of other countries, only to be cut off by Psaki.

‘Then what happens if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?’ Psaki asked.

The testy briefing room back-and-forth quickly caught the attention of doctors and public health experts, who wasted no time raking Psaki over the coals for what one commenter described as her ‘terrible, flippant, wrong’ response.

‘Actually stunned by this response by the @PressSec @WHCOVIDResponse @WhiteHouse,’ tweeted Rick Bright, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation.

‘We should remove all access barriers to rapid tests.

‘They’re too expensive, in short supply & adding extra insurance barriers isn’t the answer. Yes, mail them to all Americans.’

Gregg Gonzalves, a Yale University researcher did not mince words, writing in a tweet: ‘this answer was terrible, flippant, wrong.

‘Rapid tests are hard to get, expensive & could be a key intervention in fighting #COVID19.

‘Other countries have figured out better ways to get these tools into the hands of their citizens. Do better.’



Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button