December 8, 2023

On the eve of the expiration date for the federally declared coronavirus public health emergency, White Home Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha warned that the pandemic is much from over.

“I don’t see this as an finish to the pandemic or preventing Covid,” Jha mentioned at a STAT occasion in Boston on Wednesday. “I see this as a transition out of this emergency part into a really completely different part.”

Whereas emergency insurance policies that enable hospitals to take measures like setting up beds in parking lots are not mandatory, and the U.S. has come a great distance in pandemic preparedness, Jha mentioned that there’s nonetheless extra work to be accomplished. “Are we higher ready? Sure,” he mentioned. “Are we the place we have to be? No.”

Jha was talking as a member of the 2023 STATUS Checklist, which acknowledged 46 leaders and newsmakers in well being, drugs, science. The individuals who landed on the newest annual record and had been in attendance on the occasion ranged from Renee Wegrzyn, director of the Superior Analysis Tasks Company for Well being, a newly shaped federal life sciences group, to Jesse Ehrenfeld, president-elect of the American Medical Affiliation, and Toyin Ajayi, co-founder and CEO of well being tech startup Cityblock Well being.

Requested about essentially the most shocking challenges the U.S. has confronted in the course of the previous three years of the pandemic, Jha cited the extent of politicization surrounding the virus and huge quantities of medical misinformation. As one instance, he famous that social media has prompted a disproportionate quantity of consideration on rebound instances of Covid amongst individuals who’d taken Paxlovid.

“I believe there’s been an enormous quantity of dangerous data on the market,” Jha informed STAT senior author Matthew Herper. “How do you rebuild belief in public well being? How do you rebuild belief in vaccines?”

One other unlucky shock, Jha mentioned, is “how arduous it has been to provoke the forces to do the issues that we all know we will do to essentially get Covid underneath management.”

That features constructing higher vaccine platforms and investing in bringing extra speedy assessments to market, Jha mentioned.

Jha has been tight-lipped about his future after the White Home finishes establishing the Workplace of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Coverage that Congress mandated in December. However he famous that all through his profession, he’s all the time had a variety of pursuits.

“For 3 years, I’ve considered nothing however one virus,” Jha mentioned. Now he’s trying ahead to fascinated by the broader points the pandemic has raised, together with the decline in U.S. life expectancy and social determinants of well being.