Coronavirus Roundup: Surgeon General Advises on Health Misinformation; New Group Watches for Identity Theft 


The White House is ramping up its efforts to get more young people vaccinated. Vaccination rates are “different in county to county and in state to state,” but “we also recognize, looking at the data, that there are portions of the population, demographics, including people under the age of 27, who have a much lower vaccination rate,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, during the briefing on Wednesday. “Hence, we are quite focused on communicating directly with those people. Hence, our special guest today about why it’s important to get vaccinated.” 

The special guest was 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo who visited the White House to meet with President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as record videos to encourage youth vaccinations, particularly those 18 and under. This is one of the many things the White House has done to reach and communicate with different groups of people. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee announced on Thursday it established a new working group that will focus on preventing and responding to identity theft in pandemic relief programs. It will be chaired by Susan Gibson, inspector general for the National Reconnaissance Office. Other members include the IGs for the Small Business Administration and Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Labor departments. 

The National Park Service reopened the Washington Monument to the public on Wednesday. Masks will be required for everyone inside the monument, regardless of vaccination status. The monument closed in March 2020, reopened in October, and then closed again in January. “The NPS operational approach to reopening facilities is centered on examining each facility’s function and service to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored,” said a press release. “Working closely with the NPS Office of Public Health, the park is using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners and volunteers.” 

The surgeon general issued an advisory on Thursday about the threat of health misinformation. This is the first surgeon general advisory of the Biden administration. 

“Health misinformation, including disinformation, [has] threatened the U.S. response to COVID-19 and continues to prevent Americans from getting vaccinated, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk,” said a press release. The advisory outlines what individuals, journalists, technology platforms, governments and other groups can do. 

For example, governments should, “work to understand Americans’ health questions, concerns, and perceptions, especially for hard-to-reach populations,” said the advisory. They can “deploy new messaging and community engagement strategies, including partnerships with trusted messengers” as well as “proactively and rapidly release accurate, easy-to-understand health information in online and in-person settings.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on immunization practices will meet next week to discuss the reports of the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the draft agenda. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning this week about the potential side effect, which has surfaced in about 100 cases.

House Republicans sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Thursday to press again for information on the grant they gave to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China to study bat coronaviruses. “The relationship between the NIH, the WIV, and EcoHealth raises serious questions about use of taxpayer dollars for gain-of-function research and when U.S. health officials became aware of the WIV’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. James Comer, R- Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “The public health community—including the NIH—and the American people deserve the truth. The truth will enable American public health officials to prevent and minimize the effects of future global pandemics.”

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy will give a briefing at 12:30 p.m.

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