President-elect Biden announced a $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan that includes investing in a national vaccination program, mobilizing 100,000 public health workers to fill community health roles during the pandemic and beyond, expanding paid sick leave, safely reopening K-8 schools, sending $1,400 checks to individuals, providing direct assistance for food and housing, extending unemployment insurance and support for small businesses, protecting the jobs of public employees like transit workers, and shoring up federal information technology infrastructure and security. More information can be found here.
CNN reports on COVID outbreaks in prisons and jails. “Rodriguez is one among hundreds of thousands of people who have been infected with Covid-19 inside the country's jails and prisons -- and among hundreds who have died. There have been more than 330,000 cases among prison inmates, according to the Covid Prison Project, which tracks Covid-19 across the nation's correctional facilities, and more than 1,900 deaths. Thousands more cases have been detected across the nation's jails, where experts say Covid-19 data is scarce and hard to track. And it's not just inmates: More than 77,000 prison staff tested positive and more than 110 have died, according to the project.”
Four former CDC directors wrote about the marginalization and politicization of the agency. “The agency Walensky is about to lead must assume its rightful role once again and drive the public health response and public communications during this pandemic. Frequent CDC briefings about the coming course of the pandemic by high-level and well-informed subject experts, instead of politicians, should become the norm so the American people receive truthful, accurate and up-to-date information that is not contaminated by party or politics. During our tenures in both Republican and Democratic administrations, we experienced firsthand how active communication about public health matters serves this nation well and is critically important during any public health emergency. The CDC also needs a thorough internal and external review to determine what must change to rebuild trust with the public, to fully modernize the institution and the sciences that underpin it and to ensure that the scale of investment is commensurate with the responsibilities the agency embraces. The erosion of trust will not be repaired overnight, and a transparent process to identify the failures that brought us to this point, as well as the needed corrective actions to move us forward, cannot begin soon enough. In particular, the missteps during the earliest days of the pandemic that led to a delay in availability of accurate tests for SARS-CoV-2 must be thoroughly addressed before the next crisis arises.”
The CDC predicts the new COVID-19 variant that is more transmissible will become the main source of spread in the US by March. “The emergence of highly contagious variants has grabbed the full attention of scientists, who in recent weeks have warned that these mutations require closer surveillance. The CDC and its partners in private and academic laboratories are ramping up genomic sequencing efforts to gain better awareness of what is already circulating. Experts think there could be many variants containing mutations worth a closer look. “This is a situation of concern. We are increasing our surveillance of emerging variants. This virus sometimes surprises us,” Butler said.”