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4 Takeaways from White House’s COVID-19 Response Team Briefing

September 10, 2021

The White House’s COVID-19 Response Team today outlined its action plan “to turn the corner on this pandemic” through vaccination, testing, and other public health measures this fall.

COVID-19 vaccinations remain a cornerstone of the nation’s plan, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said more than 90 percent of patients in the hospital for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, highlighting new data published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“Looking at cases over the past two months when the Delta variant was the predominant variant circulating in this country, those who were unvaccinated were about 4.5 times more likely to get COVID-19, over ten times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die from the disease,” Dr. Walensky said.

The response team’s briefing came a day after President Joe Biden unveiled his strategy to control the virus, which included vaccine mandates for health care facilities, large businesses, and federal employees. The vaccine mandates would cover about 100 million Americans.

Here are four key takeaways from the briefing:

  • Case counts, hospitalizations:  There were more than 163,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,647 deaths reported Wednesday. The seven-day averages for COVID-19 cases and deaths are about 136,000 (-12.7%) and 1,075 (-11.3%) respectively
  • Next steps for vaccine mandates:  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing an emergency temporary standard for large employers. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period for hospitals and other health care facilities
  • A look at variants:  The Delta variant comprised about 13 percent of cases during June, but represents about 99 percent of cases this month. Getting vaccinated reduces the opportunities for the virus to mutate
  • Booster doses:  With the addition of booster doses, the definition of “fully vaccinated individuals” may change. This would happen after consultation and review from the nation’s medical advisory committees, Dr. Walensky said

The federal rulemaking process for the vaccine mandates will be developed and rolled out during the coming weeks, said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

HAP continues to monitor state and federal COVID-19 public health developments and will provide updates to members.

A replay of the response team’s briefing and an overview of the White House’s COVID-19 strategy are available online.