Dr. Fauci Just Said Virus Experts Are "Very Concerned" About This
An anticipated surge in the fall has officials on edge—and pushing for precautionary measures.
COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for over two years now, and we've been forced to accept some aspects of the virus as "the new normal." Quarantine and isolation are part of our everyday vocabulary, and while mask mandates and other restrictions have been rolled back, the pandemic remains ongoing. The introduction of vaccines helped to restore some order, but despite this, COVID numbers are on the rise once again, thanks to new, easily transmissible subvariants of Omicron, Fortune reported.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show an upward trend in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and death, generating additional concerns ahead of an anticipated surge this fall and winter. In May, President Joe Biden urged Congress to "take overdue action" to provide funding for COVID treatments, stating that if money is not directed towards combating the virus "more Americans will die needlessly" when cases rise again.
Now, top virus experts are on edge as well, as it's estimated that we could see nearly 100 million new COVID cases with the arrival of chillier weather. Speaking to this, Anthony Fauci, MD, top White House COVID adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), expressed concerns about available funding to fight the virus.
"I and my colleagues on the coronavirus team from the White House are very concerned about the lack of responsiveness to our needs to both develop and distribute countermeasures in the form of vaccines, drugs, and tests," Fauci told fellows from the National Press Foundation on June 28, per Fortune.
Fauci's commentary comes after a request made by the Biden administration in March, which called for Congress to provide $22.5 billion in "immediate emergency funding." With this, experts will be able to make continual progress and prepare to combat new variants and surges.
"Inaction will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared, and cost us more lives," the March statement from The White House read. And with additional funding stalled in Congress, the U.S. is unable to provide additional boosters and "variant specific vaccines" for all Americans, and providers can't submit claims for treating uninsured patients with COVID. Purchasing more monoclonal antibody treatments is further prevented, and testing, vaccine, and treatment efforts will not be maintained without additional monies, the White House said.
Notably, when a $10 billion relief package was requested in the spring, it didn't pass in the Senate, according to Fortune, due to it being tied to immigration legislation.
Fauci noted that Congress has provided relief—to the tune of nearly $1.9 trillion as part of the American Rescue Plan—but, unfortunately, the need for more funding persists. And discontinuing cash flow now could create additional problems, he warned.
"I don't want to belittle the fact that the Congress, up to now, has been extremely generous, giving us a lot of money," Fauci said, as reported by Fortune. "So it is not that we're not appreciative of the large amount of money that has already been given to us."
"But we are still in the middle of a war here against a very formidable virus. And to all of the sudden stop funding at a time when we need it is really disconcerting, to say the least," Fauci added.
As reported by PBS earlier this month, additional funding is "in limbo," primarily due to "election-year gridlock." And with rising numbers, officials say the U.S. will continue to fall out of line with other countries that are preparing for the next wave in fall and winter.
According to virus experts, with no new funding from Congress, the end of the year could be devastating for Americans.
"It would be terrible," Ashish Jha, MD, White House COVID response coordinator, recently told reporters, according to PBS. "I think we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life if that were to happen."