Tuesday afternoon, President Biden demonstrated why he has been no more successful than former President Trump in controlling the coronavirus, despite the advantage of vaccines and therapeutics that were not available to the latter. Speaking at the White House, Biden outlined additions to his “COVID-19 Winter Plan” that illustrate his administration’s inability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. He assured Americans that we are not going back to March 2020, but his strategy belies that claim. It similarly emphasizes increased testing, deploying medical personnel to overcrowded hospitals, as well as rushing gloves, masks, and ventilators to Michigan, Wisconsin, Vermont, and other states currently enduring case surges.
Biden’s administration was forced to revert to such measures because it clung desperately to a one-size-fits-all vaccine strategy that failed to anticipate multiple COVID-19 mutations. Even worse, this prevention model will prove all but useless against the highly transmissible Omicron variant that now accounts for 73.2 percent of new infections in the U.S. This approach exaggerates the utility of vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and contact tracing — while disregarding natural immunity. Increasingly, infectious disease experts, such as Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of population and public health sciences at the University of Southern California, are suggesting that it is long past time for a new COVID-19 strategy:
A continued focus on controlling the spread of infection, also known as primary prevention, is no longer what the people want and not politically tenable in most places. It also does not make public health sense. Given the safety and potency of treatments that can be used after the identification of infection or early in illness, the secondary prevention of severe disease is where we should be putting our resources … early treatment with monoclonal antibodies, use of medicines that disrupt severe inflammation like fluvoxamine and antivirals like Paxlovid.
Yet neither the White House Fact Sheet nor Biden’s Tuesday remarks contained any reference to therapeutic treatments after a patient has tested positive. This is passing strange considering that the rapidly spreading Omicron variant normally produces mild symptoms that are eminently treatable. The chair of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, was the first to identify the variant and she describes a very straightforward treatment regimen: “We start immediately after diagnosis with low dosage of cortisone and something like Ibuprofen to help with the muscle pain and headaches and that’s it. That’s what we give.” Dr. Coetzee also strenuously emphasizes Omicron’s mild symptoms.
On Tuesday afternoon, however, Biden exaggerated the danger this variant poses to the unvaccinated: “If you are not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned … Almost everyone who has died from COVID-19 in the past many months has been unvaccinated.” Never mind that the Biden administration has been dilatory in approving post-infection treatments. The Food and Drug Administration approved one, the antiviral drug Veklury, while Trump was still president. The FDA finally approved a second antiviral, Paxlovid, yesterday. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the new pill, developed by Pfizer, can be used to treat newly infected COVID-19 patients without hospitalizing them.
This good news is tempered somewhat by the revelation that Biden’s top health advisors, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, have actively colluded to smear experts who disagreed with the pandemic lockdowns both advocated. A number of distinguished epidemiologists, including at least one Nobel Laureate, issued a joint warning that the adverse public health consequences of lockdowns would far outweigh their benefits. Fauci and Collins exchanged emails in which they agreed to denounce these dissenters publicly. Collins described these scientists to the Washington Post as “dangerous.” Dr. Klausner discusses the inability of some public health bureaucrats to accept alternative viewpoints and adjust their strategies:
It can take time for Public Health and the political leaders that listen to such experts to update their rhetoric and change the direction of a strategy that took a long time to get into place. Many leaders are heavily invested in the primary prevention approach even though it is no longer relevant or highly effective.… We reached a terrible milestone of 800,000 deaths. In the memory of those lives lost, we should strive to prevent additional deaths through a new strategy that focuses on early treatment and reducing the consequences of infection.
Fortunately, Biden stopped short of advocating further lockdowns, avoiding the public health damage resultant from the obsession with this ill-conceived approach that Fauci and Collins seem to share. But his job approval numbers are still heading south on his handling of the pandemic, and a wide variety of other issues, which means he’s got to get beyond the myopia and narcissism that people like Fauci bring to his administration. Biden has finally given Trump credit for making vaccines available to the public. He is still behind the curve on COVID-19, however. If he wants to signal to the public that he finally gets it, he should fire Anthony Fauci and replace him with one of those “dangerous” epidemiologists.