Joe Biden's COVID Response Questioned Ahead of Vaccine Mandate Supreme Court Showdown

Former presidential health advisers have recommended that the Biden administration should update its approach to tackling the coronavirus, as two of its policies to curb the pandemic face scrutiny in the Supreme Court on Friday.

In articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the experts said the pandemic strategy must shift away from aiming for full eradication, as the contagious Omicron variant showed that "COVID-19 is here to stay."

The pieces by the experts coincide with oral arguments the Supreme Court is hearing for and against two federal vaccine mandates that affect more than 100 million American workers—measures that the scientists support.

However, the experts, who were appointed to President Joe Biden's Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board in 2020, called the initial government response "seriously flawed."

"In delineating a national strategy, humility is essential," wrote the group, which included Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm and Dr. Celine Gounder.

Difficult Questions to Answer

They said among the unknowns are the length of immunity that vaccination provides, whether COVID will be a seasonal infection, and which other variants are in the pipeline.

"Part of this humility is recognizing that predictions are necessary but educated guesses, not mathematical certainty," they said.

In their view, COVID cases, "vaccination rates, hospital capacity, tolerance for risk, and willingness to implement different interventions will vary geographically, and national recommendations will need to be adapted locally."

They said there needed to be better data infrastructure to track the disease and more resources to "build and sustain an effective public health infrastructure."

Better access to cheap and rapid testing are also required as are the faster development and better deployment of vaccines.

"The goal for the 'new normal' with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination," the experts said. That's at odds with Biden's aim of bringing in measures to help end the pandemic "for good."

They added that, "without a strategic plan for the 'new normal'...more people in the U.S. will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality."

Proposed vaccine requirements, such as those proposed by the Biden administration, "will be necessary to achieve levels of coverage to return to pre-COVID-19 life expectancy and social and economic vitality."

The experts' views come as Biden's two vaccine mandates for workers announced on November 4 are examined by the Supreme Court. Central to the arguments will be whether Congress has authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule means private companies with more than 100 workers will require them to be vaccinated or tested regularly and wear masks.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate requires jabs for healthcare workers employed by operations funded federally.

So far, the Supreme Court has declined to block vaccination mandates for students at Indiana University, teachers in New York, and health care workers in Maine, Massachusetts and New York.

"Where else do people have a greater risk than at the workplace?" Justice Elena Kagan asked during arguments on Friday, NBC News reported.

Opponents of the mandates argued the rules were too broad.

Benjamin Flowers, the Ohio solicitor general said: "Of course the risk arises at the workplace, but it's important to focus on what they're talking about, they're not talking about jobs where people congregate."

President Biden And VP Harris Meet With
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the White House COVID-19 Response Team January 4 , 2022 in Washington, DC. The U.S. continues to see daily case counts increase in the midst of another winter surge brought about primarily by the Omicron variant. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Win McNamee/Getty Images

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