“Of all the things that are going on, most people don’t see that as the problem he probably is,” he said.
The president’s stance could backfire if the latest surge of the virus continues to grow, sidestepping vaccines and making more people seriously ill. If that happens, it could look like a repeat of last summer, when the president declared “independence” from the virus ahead of the July 4 holiday, only to see massive waves of illness and death once the Delta and Omicron variants hit.
Experts say administration officials — including the president — should also better prepare the public for a reinvigorated virus in the fall and winter, when people spend more time indoors. If people get complacent now, they say, by forgoing booster doses or not vaccinating their children, then they could pay the price.
“The attitude is, ‘We’ve got this, we’re done. ‘” said Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “People should prepare, they should get booster shots. But there is no awareness.”
While the pandemic appears to be of lesser concern, experts say, it also makes it harder for the White House to argue that it needs tens of billions in new funds from Congress to replenish its supply of tests, treatments and vaccines at time for the fall. The administration has said it wants to launch a booster campaign at this point, hopefully with revamped vaccines to work better against the latest version of the virus.
During the White House briefing, Dr. Ashish Jha, the new pandemic response coordinator at the White House, warned that if Congress does not grant the administration’s demand for $22 billion in new Covid funding, Americans would suffer in the fall.
He did not repeat an earlier assertion by the administration that the country could face 100 million infections next fall and winter. Instead, he said biostatisticians’ projections vary widely based on estimates of the proportion of the population that has developed immunity and other complex factors.