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The White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha supports the continued use of masks while indoors as cases continue to rise again.
“I agree with Mayor Adams that when you’re in indoor space, you should be wearing a mask,” Jha said during an appearance on “This Week.” “I feel that very strongly that in crowded indoor spaces, in places with high transmission, people should be doing that.”
The United States survived a severe winter spike that recorded the highest level of infection with a seven-day rolling average of around 800,000 cases. The level dropped to a much more manageable case count over the past few months, but May has seen another rise, with the seven-day average peaking over 100,000 for the first time since February.
Jha assumed his role in April and has voiced support for more stringent measures, such as an extension to the travel mask mandate.
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But his greater focus remains to improve access to vaccines, therapeutics and testing. He stressed that the government remains concerned over the roughly 300 people a day still dying from COVID-19 – in reference to the seven-day rolling average.
“The [tools] that are the ones that work – vaccinations, therapies, testing, masking and improving indoor air quality, those are the major tools,” Jha said. “But the discussions going on that we have as 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?”
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Jha explained that the government is looking at preparing for “a number of scenarios,” including a wave of new infections in the fall and winter and new variants that will continue to arise. One method of preparing for such events is to develop new generations of vaccines.
Moderna Chief Medical officer Paul Berton in early May said the company remained “confident” that a variant-specific vaccine would receive approval by the fall of 2022.
Jha argued that without such a vaccine, a new wave of infections in the fall would prove dangerous.
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“One of the reasons I’ve been talking a lot about the need for Congress to step up and fund this effort is if they don’t, we will go into the fall and winter,” Jha said. “Without that next generation of vaccines, without treatments and diagnostics, that’s going to make it much, much harder for us to take care of and protect Americans.”