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Analysis: Biden faces unforeseen Covid-19 test failure

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For many Americans, this holiday season can be remembered for the hours they spend there long test lines, or unsuccessfully searching the shelves of pharmacies for antigen testing such as the Omicron variant took over the previous Delta wave. Irregular testing has already been exposed by the latest highly transmissible variant, and the U.S. is being unfavorably compared to other developed nations where citizens have easy access to free fast testing for free.

Biden told governors at a virtual meeting on Monday that his administration should have done more to speed up the availability of rapid tests, ahead of its promise this month of 500 million kits to be distributed in January. it will be too late to help this week’s holiday. Crunchy.

“It’s not enough. Clearly not enough. If we had known, we would have gone stronger, faster if we could,” the president said, referring to the Omicron storm that has quickly overflowing existing test capacity. In a interview with ABC News just before Christmas, Biden denied that the lack of evidence at home represented a “failure.” But he added: “It could be argued that we should have known each other a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago.” The president said he wished he had thought of asking for 500 million tests at home “two months ago.”
These comments from the president, while sincere, are unlikely to improve public confidence in a White House that promised to shut down Covid-19, but which at times seems to have underestimated the virus’s resilience and scale of the challenge. . The administration has had some major successes in the fight against the emergency despite the reluctance for political reasons millions of Americans follow the president’s advice on vaccines that could save their lives. And on Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its orientation in a way that can make the current outbreak less disruptive to everyday life, shortening the recommended times that people should isolate themselves when they test positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they show no symptoms, and if they wear a mask around the others for at least another five days.

But it is not the first time, when it comes to evidence, that the White House is forced to catch up after the successive waves of a pandemic incredibly capable of exploiting political divisions, the slowness of the bureaucracy and the impatience and fatigue of the public with a crisis that will soon enter its third year.

Again political

The frustrating search for evidence supported by many Americans can also have a political consequence for Biden, as he seeks a recovery after a sad few months that saw his approval ratings drop. After all, he is on the register promising to fix a lack of evidence that has exposed the recent viral increase.

Running by competition, he put the issue at the center of his 2020 campaign, which was rooted in part in highlighting the failures of former President Donald Trump during the first year of the pandemic. And in an address to the nation last March, for example, the president said, “We continue to work to make home tests available.”

More than nine months later, he now admits that not enough has been done. These comments make it difficult to accept arguments that the White House was taken by surprise by the Omicron variant. Many experts have said for months that rapid testing should be more available to the public. It’s no secret that new variants of the virus were inevitable. And a recent episode in which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked the idea of ​​sending a test to all Americans, a goal now adopted by Biden, further confused the position. of the administration on this new phase of the pandemic.

The confusion has frustrated some public health professionals who say that there are simply not enough kits to allow sick people, those exposed to someone who has become infected with the virus, and people who want to travel and attend meetings to do so. the test.

“It’s really a shame that we don’t have the amount of evidence needed to be able to use it as a robust containment tool that we know is when it’s used effectively,” said Dr. Chris Pernell, a physician and public health colleague. from the American College of Preventive Medicine, he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Monday.

All of this can give credibility to the Republican midterm election messages that Biden has failed in his self-proclaimed number one task: defeating the virus, despite repeated GOP attempts. politicize the struggle which have often delayed the response to the pandemic. The party’s continued devotion to Trump, who once urged public health officials to do fewer tests to uncover fewer cases of Covid-19, also calls into question his sincerity on the issue.

A dangerous turn in the crisis

A new controversy over the evidence follows another critical turn in the pandemic. There were more than 200,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday alone, and some experts expect that figure to reach half a million soon. While there are promising indications that this variant causes fewer hospitalizations than previous incarnations of Covid-19, even a small proportion of serious cases could flood health systems given this level of infections. This is especially the case in areas that are still struggling with an increase in the Delta variant of the virus and in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain relatively low.

The government’s chief infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, admitted on Monday to CNN’s “New Day” that the test situation could be better, although experts warned for months that it is not expansive enough.

The new variant of Omicron fills children's hospitals

“You know, testing has always been an issue,” Fauci told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, adding that the situation was aggravated by hordes of Americans who wanted to travel during the holidays just when it hit Omicron.

“It’s been a very, very strong test,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Obviously, there is no excuse: we should have had more evidence available. But hopefully now, as we enter the first few weeks of January, that will improve a lot.”

Biden has made several recent moves designed to address the deficit. In early December, he ordered health insurers to reimburse Americans for the cost of home tests, which can be as high as $ 20 a kit or more. He then promised the Americans that he would make half a billion quick tests available for free, though they would not begin deploying until at least next month. While this influx could be critical as Omicron spreads, it can’t alleviate the rise or frustration of Christmas among people who think they’re infected now.

Washington caught the guard off guard again

Tests at home are not infallible and are not a panacea for ending the pandemic. They are less important than vaccines and boosters to fight the Omicron wave. But they are a useful tool that could allow Americans to make informed decisions about their own health and plans. They could confirm if a sniffle is really Covid-19 and help people protect vulnerable relatives or decide to lose their job to avoid infecting others.

The shortage of evidence is even more noticeable since the United States led the world in the rapid deployment of vaccines, in a program that began under the Trump administration and was deployed by the White House team. of Biden.

Some companies that tried to launch rapid tests have complained about a prohibitive regulatory process in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There have also been complaints about a flood of test options, including some from abroad that have flooded the ability to evaluate them. This is a critical issue, as hasty test approvals or allowing those with disabilities to enter the system could further undermine the credibility of the tests and be a net negative in the campaign to end the pandemic.

However, this situation also seems to have some of the classic ingredients of a Washington shit. A White House consumed by crises seems to have taken its eye off the ball to some extent. It is also possible that the increasingly urgent Oval Office signals and the sudden surge of the Omicron wave have not worked effectively in the bureaucratic chain. Events have overtaken politicians and there is now the risk of a game of guilt. None of which is likely to bring a country closer to the 2022 pandemic release it yearns for.

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