A Coming Fall Surge?

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The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility that 100 million Americans will be infected with the coronavirus this fall and winter, according to an administration official. That’s lower than the number of Americans who were infected during the Omicron wave in December and January, but still amounts to roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Should that scenario play out, my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the administration’s goal is to prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths. One way that might be accomplished would be to revive mask mandates, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The projection is based on a range of outside models and assumes that a rapidly evolving virus in the Omicron family — not a new variant — will spread through a population with waning immunity against infection. Many vaccinated and previously infected people would contract the virus.

The official predicted that the wave would begin this summer in the South as people move indoors to escape the heat. In the fall, it would begin to spread across the rest of the country as the weather turned cold.

With prospects for a fresh round of emergency coronavirus aid appearing shaky on Capitol Hill, administration officials met this week with key senators — including two leading Republicans — to press their case. The Biden administration has requested $22.5 billion in emergency pandemic aid, but Republicans have insisted on a much lower number.

The White House is now making contingency plans for how it will provide more Covid vaccines if Congress does not allocate more money for tests, therapeutics and vaccines.

Details: Stat News, citing budget documents sent to Congress, reported that the U.S. might run out of Covid-19 vaccines by September if the U.S. encouraged all adults to get a second vaccine booster shot.

As China doubles down on its efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, Taiwan’s government is shifting its strategy.

“We are now moving from zero Covid to the path of coexisting with the virus,” Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s health minister, said at a news briefing, adding that he expected Covid to become more “flulike” in nature.

Despite soaring case counts, Taiwan is now allowing people with mild and asymptomatic infections to isolate at home instead of in hospitals. The government slashed the number of days in quarantine required of incoming travelers and people deemed close contacts.

The authorities are also putting more emphasis on vaccinations instead of quarantines and contact tracing, while warning that daily infections may surpass 100,000 this week. Officials have emphasized that more than 99.7 percent of the new infections so far have been mild or asymptomatic.

With those numbers in mind, Taiwanese health officials say they are shifting their focus from looking at total infections to “reducing disasters” by redirecting resources to the most vulnerable populations. Older adults who are not fully vaccinated are at high risk: They make up more than half of the 78 deaths reported in the recent outbreak.

In part, the policy shift is an economic consideration: A strict Covid strategy once made Taiwan a rare safe haven for international concerts and conferences. But as the rest of the world relaxes pandemic restrictions, Taiwan risks losing out on tourism and investment by continuing to stay closed.

It’s also political. Unlike China, Taiwan’s leaders say, Taiwan can balance the needs of public health with the rights of the individual and the healthy functioning of society.

I live in a rural part of town, was widowed in my mid-50s 16 years ago and like to think that I do “alone” pretty well. But now that things are easing up, and I have been receiving and accepting invitations, and even attending meetings, masked, I realize just how isolated I actually had become. It wasn’t until I started volunteering at the local elementary school last week that I truly understood the toll a lack of social interactions had taken. I’m starting to feel more like my pre-pandemic self. — Melissa Stephenson, Peterborough, N.H.

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