American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of investigations into the government’s pandemic response. The project brings together a public documents database, an oversight tracker of important ongoing investigations and litigation, regular news updates, and deeper dives into key issues.
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Delta Takes Over
Last week, the U.S. marked more than 20,000 new daily Covid-19 cases for four days in a row — something that hasn’t happened since May. The uptick comes after the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Delta variant now accounts for the majority of Covid-19 infections in the United States. And because of delays in transmitting test results from states and private labs to the federal government, Delta may in fact be far more widespread than the CDC’s numbers suggest.
Slow Vaccination, Partisan Divides Are Here to Stay
Federal officials are anticipating a months-long effort to convince people to get their coronavirus vaccine, as many now believe that the slowdown in vaccination rates is here to stay. One senior administration official told Politico, “The first 180 million were much easier than the next 5 million.” More than 90 million American adults remain unvaccinated, and many seem unlikely to budge. Among them, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, are more than half of all prison staffers.
Vaccine skepticism remains especially high among Republicans, who have remained consistently reluctant to get vaccinated since the first emergency approvals last winter. According to a new Politico-Harvard poll, Americans are also split along party lines over whether schools and private employers should require Covid-19 vaccinations, with most Republicans in opposition.
The Impact of Vaccination
A new report from the Commonwealth Fund and the Yale School of Public Health found that without a vaccination program, an additional 270,000 people in the United States would have died from Covid-19 in the first six months of 2021. Up to 1.25 million more people could have been hospitalized. And if vaccinations had occurred at half the rate over the last six months, the country would have seen nearly 121,000 additional deaths.
Vaccine Booster Shots
Last week, Pfizer announced that it will seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine. The company said that another shot within one year could boost immunity. But on the same day as Pfizer’s announcement, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration released a joint statement: “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.” On Monday, Pfizer representatives were expected to meet with top U.S. health officials to discuss booster shots. Pfizer has said it has data showing that immunity against the coronavirus declines in vaccinated people over time, but this data has not yet been shared with health agencies.
What We Know About Covid-19’s Origins
The Washington Post reported last week on the complex search for the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. It can take years for scientists to establish the early infection path of a new disease, and some scientific researchers have spent decades searching for the origin of other viruses, such as SARS and Ebola. Currently, we know that Covid-19 had probably infected some people in Wuhan by November 2019, but there is little data on these early cases. There is also some evidence that the virus was circulating in Europe as early as November, or even September, of 2019, suggesting that researchers may have to go back even further to find the origin of the virus.
The Pandemic in Prisons
The New York Times found multiple uncounted Covid-19 deaths in prisons, adding to concerns that the pandemic’s toll among incarcerated people has not been fully captured by official numbers. In some cases, deaths were left off official counts for reasons that are unexplained. In other cases, the deaths of people who were infected while in prison and then released because of illness weren’t included in that prison’s tally.
CDC Encourages Resumption of In-Person Learning
On Friday, the CDC released new guidance for schools. The new guidance encourages schools to resume in-person learning, and states that students who have been vaccinated should have the option of going maskless, while those who remain unvaccinated should continue wearing masks. The CDC also acknowledged the flaws of a uniform approach to regulating schools, since case counts vary by region, and suggested that local officials decide on the precautions for their schools by taking their specific circumstances into account.
Assessing VA Health Services in the Pandemic
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Inspector General published an evaluation of the Covid-19 response in Veterans Integrated Service Network’s Region 19 facilities. The evaluation focused on emergency preparedness; supplies and infrastructure; staffing; access to care; community living center patient care and operations; and vaccination efforts. The report noted that staffing issues were reported by facility leaders and community living center personnel at VA sites in eastern Oklahoma, Montana, and Oklahoma City. The pandemic disrupted many Veterans Health Administration operations, particularly surgical procedures, outpatient clinic visits, and elective procedures. Despite ongoing efforts, a significant number of canceled appointments still required follow-up as of March 31.
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