White House to Move U.S. From COVID Crisis Mode to Management Phase: Report

Several White House officials reportedly met virtually Wednesday with several pandemic experts to discuss best and worst-case scenarios of COVID going forward and determine the next steps to shift the U.S. into a new phase of the pandemic, according to ABC News.

The new strategy, which could be detailed by President Joe Biden in next week's State of The Union address, would be centered around a priority of managing cases, acknowledging that access to vaccines, testing and new treatments for COVID have downgraded the virus from the crisis situation it was previously, ABC News reported.

"As a result of all this progress and the tools we now have, we're moving toward a time when COVID isn't a crisis but is something we can protect against and treat," White House COVID Response Director Jeff Zients said in a press briefing last week.

"The President and our COVID team are actively planning for this future. As we look forward, we'll continue to enhance the powerful set of tools that we have at our disposal. Vaccines, booster shots, tests, and treatments will keep protecting our most vulnerable, including the immunocompromised."

Zients and several current and former White House advisers were part of the meeting to discuss the next steps the federal government should take to alleviate any supply chain issues and ensure they are prepared for the next developments in the pandemic, ABC News reported.

In last week's press briefing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed that the CDC is planning to reveal newer metrics that will guide the government's COVID response going forward.

"As we consider future metrics, which will be updated soon, we recognize the importance of not just cases which continue to result in substantial or high community transmission in over 97 percent of our counties in the country, but critically, medically severe disease that leads to hospitalizations," Walensky said.

"We are assessing the most important factors based on where we are in the pandemic, and we'll soon put guidance in place that is relevant and encourages prevention measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals."

She said the CDC hopes to be able to give many Americans a break from mask regulations when the guiding metrics improve and be able to reintroduce those safety measures if the pandemic worsens again.

The key reasons for changing the metrics are that a majority of Americans are vaccinated, which provides substantial protection against serious illness, and the dominance of the Omicron variant in case rates, which has proven to be highly transmissible while causing generally less severe cases, so simply high case numbers and transmission rates is not as severe of a state to be in as it was with prior variants, a CDC scientist told CNN.

Newsweek has requested comment from the White House on ABC's report but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Update 2/24/22 2:29 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

White House COVID Response Joe Biden Pandemic
The White House will reportedly shift the US into a new, management-focused phase of the pandemic in the coming days or weeks, according to a new report. Above, an American flag flies over the south facade of the White House in Washington, D.C. Robert Alexander/Getty Images