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White House sketches a future in which normal life and Covid-19 coexist

By Betsy Klein, CNN

Biden administration health officials on Wednesday outlined a long-term vision for a future in which the nation coexists with Covid-19 without living in crisis and facing disruption to normal life.

“We continue to move toward a time when Covid won’t disrupt our daily lives. A time when Covid is no longer a crisis, but rather something we protect against and treat,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during Wednesday’s White House Covid-19 response team press briefing.

Zients pointed to vaccines and other treatments as tools to manage the virus, but, when pressed on what it will take to get there, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the US is not at that phase yet.

Fauci said there is still a “way to go” before cases and hospitalizations decline to what he described as an “acceptable situation.”

“We are not there right now. As (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director) Dr. (Rochelle) Walensky said, when you have over 2000 deaths, 150,000 hospitalizations, and you have people who are now getting infected to the tune of somewhere around 700,000 a day, we’re not there yet,” Fauci said.

Fauci did not offer specific metrics on what that would look like.

Fauci said the aim is to get to a place “sufficient control,” which he explained was not “eradication” like with smallpox or “elimination” like with the polio epidemic and measles, but rather, “a level of control that does not disrupt us in society, does not dominate our lives, not prevent us to do the things that we generally do under normal existence.”

He compared that control to the way Americans currently live with other viruses.

“That would be a level of infection, but more importantly, concentrating on the severity of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths that fall within the category of what we generally accept. We don’t like it, but we accept it with other respiratory viruses: RSV, paraflu, and even influenza,” Fauci said.

Fauci said vaccines, boosters and infection will “hopefully, get us to the point where we have antivirals to be able to treat people who are at high risk that we no longer are in a situation of threat — threat to our equanimity, threat to our economy, the threat to allow us to live a normal life.”

Part of that strategy will include sharing vaccines to get more people vaccinated outside the US.

The Biden administration also marked a milestone of vaccines shipped abroad Wednesday, announcing that the US has shared 400 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine around the world.

“In addition to driving vaccination progress here at home, the US continues to lead the effort to help vaccinate the world. At President Biden’s direction, we’re donating 1.2 billion vaccine doses — the largest commitment in the world. And today, we will hit a major milestone in our global effort: 400 million vaccine doses shipped to 112 countries. 400 million doses shipped for free with no strings attached,” Zients announced at Wednesday’s Covid-19 response briefing.

The US is shipping an additional 3.2 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to Bangladesh and 4.7 million doses to Pakistan through the COVAX global vaccine sharing program, a White House official told CNN.

Pakistan has received the most doses from the US, with a total of 47.4 million doses shipped as of Wednesday.

The US has donated more doses than any other country, Zients noted, for a total commitment of 1.2 billion doses.

“To put America’s leadership into perspective, we have shipped four times more free doses to the world than any other country,” he said.

President Joe Biden announced to the UN General Assembly last fall that the US had purchased another 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which would begin shipping this month, with 800 million vaccines expected to be shipped abroad through September of this year.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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