Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19, March 17, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 231.  National COVID-19 Strategic Plan – (Part 8 of 8)

         Q:  What’s in the new United States strategic plan for controlling this pandemic?

         A: On January 21, 2021, President Joe Biden released the 198-page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.  This week’s summary gives details about:

Goal 7 – Restore U.S. leadership globally
and build better preparedness for future threats.


The plan states, “The federal government will restore America’s leadership role in preventing, detecting, and responding to global crises, advancing global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda.”  To accomplish this, the government will:

  • Restore the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization and seek to strengthen it.
  • Surge the International COVID-19 public health and humanitarian responses.
  • Restore U.S. leadership to the international COVID-19 response and advance global health security and diplomacy.
  • Build better bio-preparedness and expand resilience for biological threats.

This goal includes multiple details of steps to be taken within each of these topics.  It is apparent that many of these details had been achieved by earlier administrations and were eliminated over the last 4 years.  Replicating them is well defined in the memories of current administrators and they are listed to catalog this current effort in its detail.

The Biden administration is taking steps to address an issue in the second bulleted item, above.  A detail in the US Strategic Plan states the U.S. will join with the approximately 190 other countries to participate in the global vaccine distribution agreement (COVAX).  In this agreement, participant countries agree to share vaccine doses with other countries that are unable to produce enough for their people.  AstraZeneca’s vaccine has already been approved and is being used by 70 other countries.  But not in America!  AstraZeneca has yet to submit the required data for FDA approval, and this is not expected until April at the earliest.  AstraZeneca now has tens of millions of doses of vaccine in storage in the U.S. that can’t be used here.  President Biden on March 12 participated in a meeting with “The Quad,” a group already formed including leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.   The Quad’s focus is to address the challenges of economic and geopolitical challenges from China.  At this meeting, Biden agreed to help fund and support production and distribution of vaccines within these other countries.  As to the immediate donation of our stockpiled vaccines to other countries, “Stand by!” to see how that issue will be resolved.

232. CDC guidelines for childcare centers released

         Q. The CDC promised guidelines for childcare workers. Where are these?

         A. Parents are delighted that in-school education is on the horizon. This will allow many to return to work as businesses are allowed to open.  But what about preschoolers?  What do parents look for to be sure children will be safe?  On March 12, last Friday, the CDC issued an extensive updated guideline document for child care centers.  This revision addressed changes from the earlier standards and now include:

  • Current knowledge about COVID-19 and transmission at child care centers;
  • Mask wearing;
  • Ventilation and water systems;
  • Children with special needs and disabilities;
  • Using co-horting and staggering strategies;
  • Communal spaces, food service, playgrounds and play areas;
  • COVID-19 screening and knowing signs and symptoms;
  • Protecting people at higher risk;
  • Managing direct service providers.

These guidelines include the importance of all adults in the center being fully vaccinated.  Child care workers are included along with teachers in the directive indicating immediate acceptance for appointments to become vaccinated.  Masks on children over the age of 2 are also recommended.  No masks for under 2.  Specific guidance on changing diapers, coddling, and feeding infants, and transporting children are specified.

Each child care center that is reopening is urged to prepare an emergency operations plan (EOP) addressing all the issues in this new guidance.  Parents who are planning to use a reopened child care center, can ask for a copy of its EOP to review.  The current CDC guidelines can be found on the internet.[1]

 233. Coronavirus variants being studied – some may present a grave risk, but we just don’t know! (Yet!)

         Q:  There is so much discussion about the variants of COVID-19.  What is the problem?

         A:  An interesting scientific on-line article was just published by National Geographic that provides some insight.  “The fear is that some of these variants… could diminish the power of our vaccine arsenal.  That’s because people who have been vaccinated, or who gained immunity through natural infection, may still be vulnerable to these variants – a vulnerability that’s at odds with recommendations the U.S. CDC released saying that vaccinated people could safely gather indoors with other vaccinated people.”   Stuart C. Ray, an infectious disease professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, stated, “The needle of public opinion is clearly tilted toward relaxation, but with the high rate of current infections in the U.S., and the variants of concern on the rise, we may regret it.”   Currently, health officials are trying to gauge the threat of several domestic varieties, including one originating in New York, and the other in California.  Dr. Anthony Fauci told host Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation that he was concerned about the spread of the variant B.1.526 that originated in Manhattan just weeks ago.  Early findings show it might not be affected by antibodies from vaccines, and that therapeutics may also have limited effects. Another new variant originating in California (CAL.20C) is increasingly found in new cases.  New variants are emerging more rapidly than ever; any of these could be the one creating greater risk.  Many scientists are urging patience.  Research has yet to demonstrate what many fear.  But patience is also urged against assuming the pandemic is now over.  In any event, while vaccines account for a drop in cases, only 11% of the population has been fully vaccinated, far below the expected 75% required to achieve herd immunity!

234. Politics over science appears to still dominate – among Republicans.

         Q:  Why does the U.S. House of Representatives still vote in small groups with most members remaining away from the House chamber when it is in session?

         A:  A recent survey by the American news website Axios showed that 25% of the members of Congress have refused to be vaccinated – all of them Republicans.  Vaccinations were offered to all members of Congress in January.  But many Republicans are not identified as having taken it.  Some may have received their vaccination at home, some may have avoided it because of medical conditions.  But these have not been reported to the House Office of Attending Physician.  Following CDC guidelines, voting on motions and bills take three times longer than pre-pandemic because it has to be done with small groups scheduled to come into the chamber from their offices and elsewhere.

But this is not the only way Republications are rejecting vaccinations!  On March 11, a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll was released.  A total of 1,227 adults were surveyed with about 30% responding they did not plan to get vaccinated.  What was surprising was that 49% of Republican men said they would not get the vaccination.  Many cited reasons that followed old political arguments including “COVID was not that serious a disease.”   Leana Wen, MD, A professor at George Washington University and an emergency physician reported that this block of deniers, by itself, could prevent the nation from achieving herd immunity and allow the disease to become endemic and recur annually.

235. Americans support restricting unvaccinated people from offices and travel.

         Q:  Many of my friends want to get back to normal right away.  Isn’t this feeling universal?

         A:  A Reuters/Ipsos poll was released on Friday, March 12.  This poll of 1,005 people shows that 72% of the people felt it was important for them to know that people around them have been vaccinated.  The majority – 62% – said that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to fly on an airplane.  55% said that only vaccinated people should work out in a public gym, go to a movie theater or attend a concert.  When asked about the workplace, 60% of Americans said they wanted to work for an employer “who requires everyone to get a coronavirus vaccine before returning to the office.”  This poll raises the important issue: how do people show that they have actually been vaccinated?  Copies of the CDC Vaccination Card do not have a photo ID, and can be easily copied for use by other people.  And if someone loses their card, there is no way a duplicate can be obtained.  There is (yet) no centralized registry of people that received the vaccine including the dates given.  How will this be addressed?  “Stand by!”

[1] You can copy the entire URL (in blue and underlined), then paste it in your browser to open this document.