Washington: The US has a long way to go before the pandemic is over as deaths from Covid-19 remain far higher than seasonal respiratory viruses such as the flu, according to a report.
The 136-page document by the Covid Roadmap Group was authored by a group of two dozen scientists, doctors and public health experts, several of whom have advised the Joe Biden administration on its Covid-19 policies.
It lays out a road map for the US to transition to a new normal in which the country can live with Covid without major disruptions to daily life, CNBC reported.
While the nation has made progress, Covid is still causing an “intolerable” level of death that far exceeds the toll of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, even during bad years, according to the experts.
In years past, as many as 1,150 people died weekly from respiratory viruses like flu and RSV without the implementation of emergency mitigation measures.
However, Covid’s death toll remains about 10 times higher with 12,000 people succumbing to the virus some weeks, according to the report. More than 9,000 people have died in the last week alone from Covid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously said the US can safely return to a more normal way of life when the disease burden from Covid resembles common respiratory viruses such as the flu and RSV.
“Make no mistake, the United States is far from a normal situation,” the authors wrote.
The report noted that higher levels of immunity in the population due to vaccination and natural infection would make even a worst case not as bad as feared.
In this pessimistic scenario, as many as 264,000 people could die from Covid between now and March 2023 if a new variant emerges that infects 80 per cent of the US with 0.1 per cent of those who catch it dying, the authors stated.
This is about half the death toll suffered in each of the previous two years of the pandemic in the US.
In an optimistic scenario, the future annual death toll from Covid might be as low as 20,000, according to the report.
“This is less dire than many expected,” the authors wrote. “This is mostly a result of higher population immunity through vaccination and infection rates.
However, the report’s authors warned against complacency, inaction and “premature triumphalism.”
In addition to preparing for future pandemic threats, the report called for better investment in a multi-drug oral antiviral cocktail, public health and the health-care workforce.
The US should also improve wastewater, air and animal surveillance to track Covid variants and other respiratory viruses, it said.