CDC Chief says COVID is here to stay

CDC Chief says COVID is here to stay

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While there’s been an uptick of COVID-19 cases heading into the fall, help is on the way, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the new director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Wednesday.

A new booster shot will be available as early as next week, Cohen said at a luncheon at downtown Atlanta’s Commerce Club hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

“COVID is here with us,” she said. “We’re going to have to continue living with it.”

Cohen, who has been at the CDC for about six weeks, was wearing a mask, a practice a growing number of Americans are starting to resume four months after the national public health emergency was declared at an end. She said she was exposed to someone who has come down with the virus and donned the mask as a precaution after testing negative.

Cohen, who took off the mask while delivering her remarks, said COVID-19 hospitalizations this summer have only been half as high as last summer despite the recent rise in cases. That’s because a lot more tools to fight the virus are available now than during the pandemic’s early stages, including vaccines, masks, and COVID tests, she said.

Cohen said those tools have put the U.S. in a better position to deal with the virus.

“We have to use those tools we’ve built up over the last number of years,” she said. “These viruses continue to change. We have to keep up with them.”

Cohen said another new vaccine for treating the respiratory virus RSV in older adults is now available for the first time, as is a new RSV immunization for infants under the age of eight months.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching in a couple of months, Cohen urged Americans to get caught up on their vaccinations and testing, so they can enjoy time with their families.

“We still need to live our lives and enjoy ourselves,” she said. “[But] we have to use the protections we have.”

Cohen said one of her top priorities as she starts her new job is educating members of Congress about the damage a planned $1.3 billion cut to the CDC’s budget could do to the agency.

“Most of the funding to the CDC goes right back to the states and localities,” she said.

After finishing her speech, Cohen set an example for the rest of the nation by getting a flu shot.

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