Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases, ACP Urges Federal Government to Do More to Protect Public Health

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Calls for multifaceted approach emphasizing vaccination, testing and support for physicians

Jan. 21, 2022 (ACP)—While the American College of Physicians greatly appreciates the progress that the Biden administration has made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it is urging the White House to take more action to protect public health.

“In conjunction with other medical organizations, we are calling for a multifaceted approach that emphasizes vaccination, testing and support for physicians. We're simply not where we need to be,” said Shari Erickson, ACP interim senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy. “We're also urging national health leaders to be very transparent and evidence-based in their approach to their public health messaging. This will alleviate some of the public distrust that occurred due to the rapidly evolving messages that took place as the omicron variant took hold.”

In a Jan. 7 letter to President Biden, ACP joined four of its closest allies—the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, and American Osteopathic Association—to sharply warn that it is “past time” for strong action from local, state and federal leaders.

On behalf of their 500,000 member physicians, the organizations are urging the Biden administration to monitor how primary care clinics are being impacted by “mild” COVID-19 variants. They also call for these measures:

  • Ensure every family can consistently access the most accurate testing options and high-quality masks. Going forward, Erickson said, “there has to be ongoing investment by the administration and others in ensuring that those tests are improved.”

    The White House has faced criticism for focusing more on vaccinations than tests. According to National Public Radio, the administration plans to send out 1 billion tests that Americans could request for free via a website, but it is not clear when they will be available. “If testing is going to be part of our ongoing strategy, testing can't be just provided once,” Erickson said. “It must be provided consistently.”

    Meanwhile, the White House announced on Jan. 13 that Americans will be able to get high-quality masks for free, CNBC reported. Details were not provided.

  • Increase vaccination rates. ACP is deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court on Jan. 13 rejected the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more workers. “Increasing the vaccination rate for COVID-19 is foundational to bringing infection rates down and keeping them under control,” ACP President Dr. George M. Abraham said in a statement. “Because the use of vaccines is so vital to our ability to mitigate COVID-19 and the threat it poses to public health, we need to employ as many different means of encouraging individuals to get vaccinated as possible.”

  • Ensure ongoing vaccine and treatment updates and provide clear, consistent, and proactive public health messaging. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in particular has been criticized for confusing and inconsistent messages about the pandemic. “Information must be provided in the context of fully transparent evidence and via clear messages that are understandable by everyone,” Erickson said.

  • Address the needs and well-being of health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. ACP is pleased that the Supreme Court did allow a national vaccine mandate for many health care workers, a move that will protect the health of medical professionals and the public.

ACP will continue to advocate for the best strategies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “We're engaged in a series of conversations with the White House and congressional leaders, and we make a point to emphasize the experiences of our members out on the frontlines,” Erickson said. “We provide a crucial connection between the halls of power and medical clinics across the country.”

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Back to the January 21, 2022 issue of ACP Advocate