‘Rules must be clear’: Democrats call for Covid strategy to be reset as cases rise

Even some Democratic leaders say the Biden administration should do more to clarify its Covid guidance after weeks of whipping.

“We have to make it very clear: this is not easy. We understand that it is not easy, but we have to follow the rules,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in a short interview. “But the rules must be clear, and the CDC must be clearer than it has been. “

More guidance from the White House could come during a Biden speech on Thursday, where he will talk about the state of the pandemic. And President Joe Biden can use that speech to address criticism of at least one of the CDC’s recent decisions – its reluctance to issue a nationwide recommendation to wear higher quality masks such as the N-95 or KN-95.

The party’s resurgent pandemic fears were at the forefront on Tuesday when the White House’s top health officials appeared on Capitol Hill for the first time since the Omicron variant became the dominant tribe in the United States last month. At the hearing, Senate HELP President Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Called the recent changes to the CDC guidelines “confusing and frustrating” and criticized the administration for persistent supply shortages and other headaches plaguing her home state and nation.

“I’m frustrated that we’re still behind with issues that are as important to families as testing and supporting schools,” she said. “It does not mean that we have not made progress – it’s just clear that we have not done enough.”

Anthony Fauci, Biden’s most visible health adviser, called it a “very cunning virus” at the same Senate hearing Tuesday, adding, “We do the best we can at all.”

Democrats are also airing outside of hearings. More than 50 House and Senate Democrats signed a letter to Biden this week urging his administration to increase the availability of rapid tests and remove barriers to testing, one of the most notable challenges at Omicron. Other legislators, such as Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), has sent their own letters.

In addition to the obvious challenges of the global supply chain in a pandemic, Democrats recognize that there are still big questions about how – and when – to test with a whole new variant.

“What people want is simplicity,” the rep said. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.), and offers as an example that people can test positive for Omicron by using one type of test, but test negative by using another. “We learn more. At least it makes the public scratch their heads in the first place to try to figure out what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, as was the case in the U.S. rise, the CDC responded last week by halving its 10-day isolation guidelines for those testing positive with the virus. Now the agency is urging infected people to be quarantined for “at least” five days. To re-enter the community, they do not need to test negative as long as this person is wearing a mask and is not symptomatic.

The recommendations differed so dramatically from the agency’s first advice that it quickly became a viral internet meme. Asked about the criticism, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky defended the agency’s decision on Tuesday, telling senators that the change was prompted both by new data on when people are most likely to spread the virus and the urgent need to keep hospitals, schools, pharmacies and others hard affected workforce from collapsing.

“Deficiency could have and has been proven to have serious consequences for public health,” she said. “This is the right guide to what we currently know about transmission and the real circumstances we face at the moment.”

Democrats recognize that evolving science is difficult to communicate, especially to a nation that has been tired of the past two years, but still claim the administration can do better. At least one Democrat, rep. Ro Khanna, from California, has called for a new chief of staff at the CDC – a person who “really has respect for the public health community and has been right in many of the calls.”

“People are trying to figure out exactly what to do. Should you have a five-day quarantine even if you have symptoms? Or not?” added rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), One of the dozens of Democrats who signed the letter to Biden to test availability this week.

Schakowsky noted that she and other Democrats received a briefing in the White House this week on some new coronavirus treatments. And while it’s very important “to fix this in the coming weeks, she said,” I think there’s a catch-up. “

Many Democrats are aware that they are not blaming Biden or his administration for a virus that is now slipping past past defenses such as vaccination or former immunity. But they say health authorities need to provide clearer answers on how to avoid the spread.

‘I think the administration is doing a good job. I think the CDC needs a little more clarity, ”Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a brief interview. She pointed to her own N95-type mask and added: “My message is that if everyone wears these masks, not fabric masks, we can get rid of this in a short amount of time.”

Even former Biden administration advisers are speaking out in public, calling for a new strategy and warning that continuing on the current path will flood the country’s already overwhelmed hospitals and delay the country’s recovery.

Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist from New York University and former adviser on the Biden transition, is among those critics – telling POLITICO that a new plan that is not based solely on vaccinations is crucial. Without one, and the absence of more investment in better ventilation and more accessible treatments, “eventually we will have to build more hospitals and hire more doctors and nurses.”

‘It will mean higher taxes. This will mean higher insurance premiums. You can pay for it on the front with prevention, or you can pay for it on the back with health care, “Gounder said, adding that she has recently received calls from Democratic lawmakers concerned about the state of the pandemic. She declined to mention, who had contacted.

“When the virus mutates, you have to change your plan,” added Zeke Emanuel, another former Biden adviser calling for a new strategy. While the president’s pandemic policies were successful until this summer’s Delta rise, Emanuel said the administration needs to focus forward and build systems for where the country should be in three, six and twelve months.

“We think there is too much reactivity instead of being proactive,” he said. “If you do not do today what will help six months from now, you will be in trouble.”

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