The collapse of covid funding is a disaster

All epidemics trigger the same depressing cycle. First, panic: as new pathogens emerge, the government throws money, resources, and attention to the threat. Then, neglect: once the danger subsides, the budget shrinks and the memory fades. The world ends where it began, each new disease is forced to deal with unpreparedness and therefore panic predominates. This Sisyphus sequence occurred in the United States after HIV, anthrax, SARS, Ebola and Zika. It happened in the Republican administration and the Democratic administration. It happened despite decades of warnings from public health experts. It has become inevitable as the day passes in the night.

Nevertheless, it is not meant to happen This is fast. When I wrote about the first panic-neglect cycle five years ago, I assumed it would work year after year, and that neglect was just After the crisis is over. The coronavirus epidemic has destroyed both hypotheses. Before each wave ended, scholars erroneously predicted that the current wave would end, or claimed that life-saving measures were never really necessary. Repeatedly, within months of neglect, often Before The panic is over. The United States is funding the “Minnesota Ice-like” epidemic, as Michael Osterhome, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told me in 2018.

Or, as happens in March.

This week, Congress knocked 1.5 billion into the coronavirus fund from a য়ের 1.5 trillion spending bill that President Joe Biden signed Tuesday. The decision is catastrophic, and as the White House noted, the consequences will be immediate. Next week, the government will have to reduce the shipment of monoclonal-antibody treatment by one-third. As of April, it will no longer be able to compensate healthcare providers for tests, vaccinations or treatment for millions of unfinished Americans who are disproportionately vaccinated and at risk of becoming infected. Come on June, it won’t be able to support domestic test makers. It may not buy the extra dose of antiviral pills or anti-infective treatments that immunocompromised people are banking on but are already struggling to get. Efforts need to be scaled up to improve vaccination rates in poor countries, which increases the likelihood of dangerous new forms emerging. If such a variant emerges, they will probably catch up with the United States, as surveillance networks will have to be pushed back as well. If people need more booster shots, the government will not have enough for everyone.

To be clear, these were aspects of the epidemic response Already Insufficient. The US has never adequately tested, never vaccinated enough people, never made adequate treatment accessible to its most vulnerable, and has not done enough to level the global vaccine gap. These measures needed to be taken Strong, Not even weaker. Their abandonment assumes that the United States will no longer need to respond to another large cowardly wave, when such incidents are probably not in small part due to the country’s previous failures. And even if such a wave is not implemented, another contagious threat will inevitably occur. As I wrote last September, the United States was already preparing for the next epidemic. Now running there.

The virus is also moving. Cases are on the rise across Western Europe, indicating a similar increase in the United States, as has been the case in every uprising in the past. (One-third of CDC’s wastewater sites have detected coronavirus samples this month, although Such information is noisy And difficult to explain if the virus levels are low.) Meanwhile, orders for masks and vaccines are being withdrawn. Closing contact tracing and quarantine policies. The CDC’s new guidelines have restored much of the country as “low risk” and left the weakest people with the burden of protecting themselves. Some experts supported the guidelines on the grounds that tests, treatments and other protective equipment were available – and would be strengthened, as promised in Biden’s recently unveiled national plan. But those promises have always depended on congressional funding; Apart from this, those remaining layers of protection also evaporate. For half a year, Biden, administrative officials and a number of prominent public health voices have encouraged optimism because “we have the tools” to fight the virus. The first half of that catchphrase now looks suspicious.

As The The Washington Post And as others have reported, the funding crash happened because Republicans were more skeptical about the need for more cowardly funding. Their counter-proposal was to re-use unused containers that had already been set aside for state-level epidemic response; Democrats rejected and the coronavirus aid bill was dropped altogether. It makes sense to ask for accountability when it comes to spending, but this particular line of reasoning is familiar. In 2016, Barack Obama asked Congress for $ 1.9 billion to fight Zika, but Republicans rejected it, arguing that such funds should be manipulated from a container set aside for the 2015 Ebola outbreak. In 2018, Donald Trump asked Congress to discard the remaining 2 252 million in that container, which he billed as an example of “irresponsible federal spending.” In fact, these funds were an investment, deliberately left untouched so that the U.S. could respond more quickly to future outbreaks (such as those that began in the Democratic Republic of Congo just as Trump called for). The United States clearly understands the concept of peacekeeping: it spends at least $ 700 billion a year on its military, more than any other country. But when thinking about infectious diseases, the essential preparation for the future is regularly seen as an unnecessary exaggeration of the present.Even in the midst of an epidemic.

One could argue that such thinking reflects realism rather than complacency. Budgets are not infinite, and countries face various pressures. If a threat goes away, does it make sense to divert resources to others? This argument fails for three main reasons. First, and most obviously, The threat did not go away! Even when the coronavirus reaches the epidemic (which is too much) Not yet), Cannot be a local threat To ignore But that must be one Conductedপ্রয়োজনwhich requires regular investment which the Congress deems fit to deny. Second, preventing epidemics is far more cost-effective than dealing with their consequences, and allocating funds only when a threat is knocking on our door is economically foolish.

Third, the many measures that will make a difference against covid — good ventilation, paid sick leave, equitable healthcare, a strong public health infrastructure — will also protect people from other diseases and health problems. In that case, even the $ 15 billion that the White House wanted (and won’t get now) is insufficient. And considering such money as a “COVID fund” is part of the problem – a perverse way of dealing with health problems one after another, instead of fixing the inequalities that exist between them.

These dynamics can occur for the same reasons that I have identified in a recent article that have made so many COVID deaths normal in the United States. The virus has disappeared. The devastation it causes is hidden from public view. The epidemic has been going on for two long years, turning tragedy into routine and giving birth to destiny from failure. Older, disabled, poor, black, or brown Americans, whose extra deaths were long before COVID, suffered the epidemic, while the underprivileged had quick access to medical intervention – and were quick to declare a crisis. A country that forgets its dead so easily must have a tendency to forget the lessons of the very recent past, preparing itself for further failure in a very near future.

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