Former Biden Advisers Urge Covid Strategy for ‘New Normal’

Six prominent health experts who advised President Joe Biden’s transition team called for a new pandemic strategy geared towards the “new normal” of living with Covid indefinitely instead of focusing on wiping it out. 

Before Biden was inaugurated in January 2021, he had an advisory board of health experts tasked with counseling him during his transition into office. As is typical with transition boards, upon inauguration, the board officially ceased to exist. But the members have quietly been meeting virtually about the U.S. Covid response. 

Six members of the board, all big names in American medicine, went public this week with a plea to shift from eliminating Covid completely to learning to live with it. They include a former acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and now with George Washington University’s School of Public Health, and a former advisor to President Barack Obama. 

Three opinion articles were published at the end of the week in The Journal of the American Medical Association calling for Biden to shift gears and adopt a new strategy.

The authors say that they shared the articles with White House officials before publishing, but because it was unclear whether the government would take their advice, they decided to release it to the public. 

The White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that she did not yet read the articles, and said that the president’s goal is to defeat Covid. She continued that Biden’s focus and objective is to save as many lives as possible. 

The “new normal” strategy’s first step, they wrote, is to recognize that Covid is one of several respiratory viruses currently circulating, and that policies should be developed to address all of the viruses together. In order to make the U.S. better prepared for outbreaks including new variants of Covid, the group suggested the government define goals and benchmarks should prompt an emergency status. 

They also called for a more aggressive use of vaccine mandates, saying that the U.S. needs to finally adopt a digital verification system for vaccinations like so many other countries have already done. They said relying on paper cards, which are easily forgeable, is unacceptable in the 21st century. Free N95 masks should be made readily available, as should oral treatment for Covid, they continued. 

The papers also suggested some measures that are already included in Biden’s plans, such as faster vaccine development, for the CDC to collect comprehensive real-time data, and a corps of community public health workers. 

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