Damage Control: White House Urges Warning of 100 Million Covid Cases This Winter ‘Preliminary’

© AP Photo / Matt RourkeSigns direct motorist to a free drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.
Signs direct motorist to a free drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.05.2022
The White House has gone into damage control mode after one of its senior health officials gave a startlingly high estimate for potential Covid-19 cases this coming winter.
Over the weekend, the White House’s new coronavirus response coordinator, health scholar Dr. Ashish Jha, gave an interview in which he warned of an impending wave of 100 million cases if Congress continued to stall on approving federal funding for anti-Covid programs.
“[W]e're looking at a range of models, both internal and external models. And what they're predicting is that if we don't get ahead of this thing, we're going to have a lot of waning immunity, this virus continues to evolve and we may see a pretty sizable wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths this fall and winter,” Jha told ABC’s “This Week” on May 8.
“Whether that happens or not is largely up to us as a country. If we can prepare and if we can act, we can prevent that. But we're going to need Congress' help. And that's one of the key messages here is, we need the resources to fight that battle so we don't have that kind of fall and winter,” he added.

According to the official tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US has only detected 82.2 million COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the health agency’s infection-induced antibody seroprevalence surveys, which are based on blood tests collected across the country, have pointed to there being almost twice the number of detected cases.

By Friday, the White House had still not shared any new information about the models Jha said the stark estimate had been based on.
CNN reported that a senior administration official said the data Jha cited was “preliminary” and “early,” based on data collected by modelers and experts that the White House had sought in recent weeks. The official further noted that the numbers were intended for scenario planning, not prediction.
Jha was appointed to his present position on April 1 and quickly took up the cause of securing funding for COVID-19 aid, which lawmakers have repeatedly punted in favor of passing new bills providing Ukraine with weapons. The $10 billion funding bill still sitting in Congress would increase the availability of tests, therapeutics and vaccines nationwide.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden ordered flags to half-staff to mark the “tragic milestone” of 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the country. The deaths have come in four distinct waves associated with massive outbreaks: the first in the spring of 2020 heralded the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic; the second over the winter of 2020-2021 was the last without vaccines; the third came in late summer and early fall of 2021 and was caused by the Delta variant of the virus; and the fourth came in the winter of 2021-2022, caused by the Omicron variant.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet to determine which COVID-19 strains are the most likely to cause problems later this year and order new vaccines to combat them. Developing modified shots could take two or three months, although neither Pfizer or Moderna, the two main COVID-19 vaccine suppliers in the US, have marketed targeted COVID-19 vaccines.

“If we had the resources we’d be there having those conversations today,” Jha told the Associated Press in an interview published Friday. “The window is really closing on us if we want to be in the front of the line.”
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