(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration’s response to the surge of Covid-19 infections caused by the omicron variant, conceding though that health officials need to “close that gap” in the severe shortage of testing.
“We have more to do,” Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that the spike in infections outstripped what he said was an eight-fold increase in testing over the last month.
President Joe Biden and his top health officials are coming under increasing criticism, from the lack of tests to overcrowded hospitals around the nation. A new CBS News poll shows that a majority of Americans find coronavirus information from health officials confusing, with changing guidelines on masking and isolation periods for those who are infected.
“The White House needs to get its messaging discipline together,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It would be enormously helpful to the American people if that messaging was more consistent.”
Biden was also dealt a blow from the Supreme Court, which last week blocked the centerpiece of his push to get more people vaccinated, rejecting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests.
Shots for Workers
Glenn Youngkin, the new Republican governor of Virginia, said he was disappointed the Court let a separate rule take effect requiring shots for workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments from the federal government.
“The Supreme Court has ruled and so we’re going to have to go to work to make sure that we don’t have a further depletion of the resources that are in our hospital system,” Youngkin said on Fox.
Reflecting the position of many Republican governors, Youngkin on his first day in office on Saturday reversed a vaccine mandate for state employees and allowed parents to decide whether children should mask in schools.
Murthy called the court’s decision “very disappointing” but said “there is nothing that stops workplaces from voluntarily putting these requirements in place. In fact, many have done so already.”
Murthy and Jha agreed that the omicron surge will get worse, even as it shows signs of peaking in New York and other parts of the Northeast.
“The problem is we’re running out of health care workforce,” Jha said. “We just don’t have the staffing. That is going to be a challenge for many weeks ahead.”
Murthy said: “This is a tough time. It’s going to be a tough few weeks, but we will get through it.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.