Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s new COVID response coordinator, on Sunday said the United States is in a “much better place” in the ongoing pandemic than it was at any other time in the pandemic.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jha said he’s confident the nation will get through the latest variant surge “without disruption.”
“We’re in a much better place than we have been throughout much of this pandemic,” he said. “Two-hundred million Americans vaccinated. Hospitalizations are at the lowest in the entire pandemic, since March of 2020.”
Case numbers are rising as a new omicron variant becomes dominant in the United States, and Jha said “We’re going to watch this carefully.”
“My expectation is that we’re going to see cases go up, cases go down,” he said. “The key things, make sure hospitalizations and deaths are not rising in any substantial way. Looking at variants, paying very close attention. Let’s see where the next few months go. I’m concerned. I want to watch those numbers. At this point I remain confident we’ll get through this without disruption”
According to Jha, “We would have reacted to this differently a year ago.”
“Infections are still important,” he noted. “We want to keep infection numbers low. But they mean something different than they did a year ago. They mean something different because people are vaccinated and boosted. They mean something different because we have a lot more therapeutics available. We have to change our behavior and respond in a different way as the pandemic evolves. I think at this point responding with care and caution but not overreacting is critical.”
He also lamented a judge’s decision to strike down a mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked for a 15-day extension to monitor the newest variant’s impact.
“I believe decisions around those should be driven by the scientists, whether people should be on masks or not,” he said. “That’s certainly what it means to follow the science and look at what the scientific agencies are recommending. Obviously, the judiciary has an important role to play. What you heard out of the administration, out of the Department of Justice, was the assessment that this was an incorrect decision and the DOJ is now appealing that decision.”
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