The Perfect Enemy | COVID this week: Biden shifts focus to global recovery; US workers concerned about returning to the office
September 25, 2022

COVID this week: Biden shifts focus to global recovery; US workers concerned about returning to the office

COVID this week: Biden shifts focus to global recovery; US workers concerned about returning to the office  USA TODAY

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As Americans get in line for omicron-specific COVID-19 boosters, the White House announced it will start shifting its focus to support recovery efforts globally in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

In a report released Thursday, the Biden administration said the U.S. has delivered over 620 million doses of vaccine to 116 countries and provided $19 billion in assistance to get those shots into arms.

“Too many countries lack equitable access to vaccines, tests, treatments and oxygen, and capabilities needed to effectively deliver them,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “We recognize that the United States and its international partners have the tools, expertise, and global leadership to turn COVID-19 from a global emergency into a manageable illness.”

As the White House sets sights on a global recovery, it is also preparing to wind down domestic efforts. Officials told Politico the administration may allow the COVID-19 public health emergency to expire in mid-2023 and plans to phase out federal subsidies that cover free vaccines and treatment early next year.

Also in the news:

► White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said in a podcast Monday Americans should get their omicron-specific booster shot by Halloween.

► Psychological distress including depression, anxiety and stress, before COVID-19 infection is linked to an increased risk of long COVID, according to a recent study.

► Washington – one of the few states to still have active COVID-19 mandates in place – will end its state of emergency Oct. 31, officials announced last week. 

 A new study shows COVID-19 hospitalization rates among the unvaccinated were 10.5 times higher than those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. 

📘What we’re reading: The different experiences people face with long COVID show the challenge of treating a condition that creates so many profound and varied problems. Read more here. 

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‘Massive global failures’: Experts call out world leaders for COVID response

More than two years after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, a group of renowned experts are calling out international leaders over how they failed to prevent the world’s deadliest outbreak.

In The Lancet Commission published Wednesday, authors detailed “massive global failures” that led to more than 6.9 million reported deaths and ultimately an estimated 17.2 million deaths, as reported by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

They found widespread failures in prevention, transparency, basic public health practices, and international cooperation and solidarity.

Authors argued governments were too slow to respond to COVID-19, paid little attention to vulnerable communities and fueled misinformation with lackluster or confusing messaging.  

Ending the pandemic will require all countries to adopt a “vaccination-plus” strategy, work simultaneously with other nations, and strengthen national health systems and preparedness plans, the authors say. 

COVID exposure in the office still a concern for US employees

One-third of U.S. adults are concerned about getting exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The 33% of workers who are “very” or “moderately concerned” about COVID-19 is a record low, but hasn’t changed much from the 36% of people who said they were concerned in November 2021.  

However, the percentage of people who say they’re “not concerned at all” has been steadily rising, from 23% in 2020 to 39% in August 2022.

The survey also shows gaps between genders and political affiliation. About 41% of women are concerned about on-the-job exposure compared to only 26% of men, and 51% of Democrats are concerned compared to only 14% of Republicans.

Telehealth fraud cost Medicare $128M in first year of COVID, feds say

A report by government investigators last week found more-permissive remote care may have come at a price.

During the first year of the pandemic, 1,714 doctors and health providers billed Medicare nearly $128 million in “high risk” claims, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

Investigators said less than 1% of the 742,000 Medicare-certified doctors and other providers of telehealth services submitted roughly a half million problematic claims, showing only a small number of health providers engage in potential fraud or wasteful billing.

Yet the billings are concerning enough that government investigators urged the Biden administration to tighten oversight to ensure millions of Americans can access remote care while safeguarding taxpayer dollars. 

“We want to make sure that in addressing concerns about fraud – as minute as that fraud might be – you’re not erecting really harsh and inappropriate barriers,” said Kyle Zebley, the American Telemedicine Association’s senior vice president of public policy.

– Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY 

Survey shows how life has changed in the US during COVID

During the first two years of the pandemic, the number of people working from home in the United States tripled, home values grew and the percentage of people who spent more than a third of their income on rent went up, according to survey results released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Providing the most detailed data to date on how life changed in the U.S. under COVID-19, the bureau’s American Community Survey for 2021 showed the share of unmarried couples living together rose and the percentage of people who identify as multiracial grew significantly. It also showed fewer people moved, preschool enrollment dropped and commuters using public transportation was cut in half.

The data released offers the first reliable glimpse of life in the U.S. during the COVID-19 era, as the 1-year estimates from the 2020 survey were deemed unusable because of problems getting people to answer during the early months of the pandemic.

The survey typically relies on responses from 3.5 million households to provide 11 billion estimates each year about commuting times, internet access, family life, income, education levels, disabilities, military service and employment. The estimates help inform how to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT. 

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.