Even Bill Gates believes that omicron might finally mark the end of the COVID pandemic, but with his approval rating reaching new lows, President Biden is pulling out all the stops to assemble a group that will help protect the US from any future COVID variants.
Biden’s new organization is called “The Pandemic Innovation Task Force”, and it was created by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (or OSTP). It will focus on developing vaccines, treatments, diagnostic tests and other tools, according to officials familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity as the details aren’t yet public.
This will help prepare the US should new versions of SARS-CoV-2 surface, or should any new viral threats emerge in the coming years.
While some officials stressed the group wasn’t created specifically as a response to omicron, the timing certainly is notable. The omicron variant is driving more COVID infections than at any time since the first COVID cases were confirmed in the US, Bloomberg reports.
Health officials have warned that new variants could emerge that could scramble the body’s protections.
Though studies suggest that omicron causes milder infections than earlier strains, many hospitals have seen an influx of patients filling beds.
Additionally, rapid tests have been in short supply, and businesses have been disrupted by infected employees having to isolate.
Unlike the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the new group won’t focus on day-to-day pandemic response or the omicron variant, or things like distribution of vaccines, testing and therapeutic treatments.
Instead, it will work on “preparedness projects” that could be used to manage waves of new variants that could emerge within six months to two years. It’s also being designed to handle other viral threats.