HomeUS could once again be caught off-guard if another Covid-19 wave hits

US could once again be caught off-guard if another Covid-19 wave hits

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The Biden government is warning Congress that the United States does not have the money to deal with future Covid-19 strains, stockpile medicines, or invest in research.

According to a Department of Health and Human Services document obtained by Bloomberg News, funds for pandemic response – including testing, vaccine distribution, and other medical equipment – have either been spent or set aside for purchasing. So far, all money has been spent or allocated for use.

The American Rescue Plan, a US$1.9 trillion federal relief plan passed early in Joe Biden’s presidency, refilled finances needed to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, according to a Biden administration official familiar with the money, practically all of the rescue plan’s health-related resources, as well as those from other bills, have been spent or allocated, including funds for ongoing Omicron response activities.

Another Biden admin official stated as cited by Bloomberg News that if Congress does not grant extra funding immediately, the US could be caught off surprise once again if another Covid-19 variant hits, as it was last year when the Omicron wave struck.

According to that individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the topic, bipartisan agreement is crucial to ensure the United States does not run out of vaccines, testing, or treatments. Without congressional action, the government will be unable to prepare for a potential second wave, according to the official.

The person cited the Omicron surge as an example of how a new challenge stretched resources: when budget constraints grew, the administration moved to send free testing to Americans at a cost of billions. They warned that unless Congress allocates more funds, the US could face such financing problems again.

According to the HHS document dated Feb 15, the US spent US$47.8 billion on testing and mitigation strategies, US$16 billion on procuring medical countermeasures like drugs and vaccines and expanding the domestic supply chain for medical tools, US$8.5 billion on rural health providers and suppliers, and more than US$8 billion on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the United States has dropped dramatically since the Omicron outbreak. The CDC’s director, Rochelle Walensky, has stated that the agency is working on new recommendations on reducing measures such as mask regulations.

As part of the overall US$80.6 billion, US$70.4 billion has been spent or obligated, and US$10.2 billion has been set aside or set aside for other things. The HHS document confirms no unallocated funds.

Officials from the Biden administration told legislators earlier this week that HHS intends to seek US$30 billion in fresh funds to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak as part of a US$1.5 trillion government funding package that lawmakers hope to finish by March 11.

According to a separate HHS document, the increased cash would be used to purchase medicines, paediatric vaccines, and variant-specific vaccinations. The funds would also be used to maintain testing capacity, create tests that can distinguish between future varieties, and offer uninsured people free testing.

“Resources from the Rescue Plan and previous Covid-19 response bills have enabled us to respond forcefully to the Delta and Omicron surges,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week. “And what we’re trying to do now is stay ahead and stay in contact with Congress about what those needs might look like.”

Image Credit: Getty

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