WH COVID Coordinator: 'We're Just Not Done Yet'; 'You Should Be Wearing a Mask' Indoors

By Susan Jones | May 23, 2022 | 6:01am EDT
As COVID-weary Americans rip off their masks, the White House COVID coordinator says not so fast. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
As COVID-weary Americans rip off their masks, the White House COVID coordinator says not so fast. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "We're just not done yet" with COVID, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday:

"Because, look, we have a lot of infections out there. It's still quite disruptive. And 300 people a day are still dying of this disease. That's way too much," Jha said.

"What I would say is, we've certainly started really breaking that link between infections and deaths, through two mechanisms, right? One is by getting people vaccinated and boosted, and, second, through making therapies widely available.

"Those things really do help a lot. And that's why, despite how many infections there are, death numbers are still relatively low. We've got to keep working on it. We're just not done yet."

Jha had some familiar advice for Americans:

"First and foremost, my advice is, if you have not gotten vaccinated in the last five months, if you have not gotten boosted, you need to go out and do that now. Now is a good time to do it. What we know is vaccines continue to provide a high level of protection against people getting seriously ill. So that's advice number one.

"Advice number two is, I agree with Mayor Adams that, when you're in an indoor space, you should be wearing a mask. I feel that very strongly, that in crowded indoor spaces, in places with high transmission, people should be doing that.

"And our job, certainly, in the administration, is to make sure that people have access to masks, people have access to vaccines, access to therapeutics, and testing. All of that, we're working on as well."

Jha said the major "tools" for dealing with COVID remain the same:

"So we don't have a new set of tools that we're going to roll out. The ones...that work -- vaccinations, therapies, testing, masking, and improving indoor air quality -- those are the major tools.

"The discussions going on that we have is, we're looking at the numbers and asking which of those tools are most important at this moment? Which ones do we want to emphasize?

"Certainly I think we want to help people understand that we are in a different moment than we were two years ago, right? We are at a point where lots of people are vaccinated and boosted, where we do have widespread therapies available. We're not in the same battle -- as Mayor Adams said, we're not in the same battle as we were two years ago.

"And so the key discussion now is how do we help Americans through this moment and, this is really important, Martha, how do we prepare for future variants, how do we prepare for the evolution of this virus, and how do we make sure we have the resources to do it so we can protect Americans as this virus continues to evolve?"

Jha said the virus continues to "evolve," which means it is difficult to "contain."

"We also are planning for a variety of scenarios, including a wave of infection this fall and winter, and making that sure we have a new generation of vaccines that are being worked on right now, that we have availability of treatments and testing, and we have the resources.

He urged Congress to pass billions more in funding for the "next generation of vaccines," as well as treatments and diagnostics.

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