Biden’s state of the virus
Tonight’s State of the Union address will be the first State of the Union address by President Biden. It comes at a time some of his closest advisors have called the most crucial moment of his presidency.
Biden is expected use the speech as a rallying cry for support of his domestic agenda, and to address immediate priorities such as his Supreme Court nomination and geopolitical confrontations with Russia. He will have to tread carefully when he speaks about the coronavirus.
“He can’t proclaim the pandemic over because we don’t know that,” said my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a Washington correspondent who covers health policy. The president is also heading into midterm elections in a year, and many Americans are tired of hearing about coronavirus. Biden might need to focus his attention on other issues, such as the high gasoline price, supply chain issues, and the war in Ukraine.
“So he wants to get the nation to a place where Americans view the coronavirus as a manageable problem, not something that’s going to be eliminated but something that we’re all going to learn how to live with,” Sheryl said.
The White House has been working on a detailed strategy to transition the nation to what some are calling a “new normal,” to be unveiled Wednesday. Sheryl stated that Biden will not give details of the plan tonight in his speech.
Instead, he’s likely to talk in broad strokes. He might also speak about how his administration has laid the foundation for local communities to monitor and decide on emergency measures.
“There’s not going to be any mission-accomplished banner,” Sheryl said. “He’s not going to declare independence from the virus. He tried it once last July 4. It did not work out well for him.” (The Delta wave arrived soon after.)
“I also think his remarks have to acknowledge where Americans already are,” Sheryl said. Many Americans are ready for the end of the pandemic. “Biden’s C.D.C. just issued guidelines that suggest 70 percent of Americans can pretty much do that by taking off their masks and no longer having to rely on Covid restrictions like social distancing.”
Nevertheless, large segments of America’s population are still at risk. Children under 5 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and new data released yesterday showed that Pfizer’s vaccine was much less effective in preventing infection in children ages 5 to 11 than in adolescents or adults. An estimated seven million Americans have weak immune systems or illnesses that make them more vulnerable to severe Covid.
“The task before Biden is to acknowledge the current climate, keep in the back of his mind that he wants Democrats to be re-elected — and Democrats don’t want to be seen as the party of ‘no,’ or the party of Covid restrictions,” Sheryl said. “While at the same time, it’s his job to keep the country safe and make sure we’re prepared. And to know that another variant could be just around the corner.”
More about the speech:Biden will announce steps to safeguard nursing home residents and outline plans that will hold providers responsible for unsafe or substandard care.
What do Americans feel?
A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research looked at Americans’ perceptions of the pandemic and found that their fears were waning.
In December, when Omicron emerged and rapidly became the dominant variant globally, 36 percent of the nearly 1,300 adults surveyed said they were “extremely or very worried” that they or a family member would test positive for the virus.
Mid-February saw 24 percent of respondents express this fear. The number of cases is slightly lower now than it was in October, when Omicron took root. In the United States, approximately 50,000 people with Covid are being hospitalized. This is less than a quarter of the January peak.
The poll also showed that mask mandate support is waning. In August, 55% of respondents said that they supported required masking. This is compared to roughly 50% who support it now.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that Americans are excited to get over the pandemic but also have trepidation.
Overall, about half of Americans expect it will be safe for most people to “resume normal prepandemic activities” by late spring, including a third who say it is already safe to do so, the survey found. However, 61% of Americans fear that lifting restrictions will put people with compromised immune systems at risk.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
My household did all the right things — we vaccinated, boosted, masked and tested. We still mask and test. Mayor Eric Adams is now pledging to lift the vaccine mandate. The majority of the city has been vaccinated and we were beginning to feel normal again. However, the city has opened indoor spaces to non-vaccinated people (i.e. Covid variant incubators), we aren’t safe anymore. Even more dangerous are the immunocompromised and children below 5 years of age. Doesn’t he realize the vaccinated are the majority and making us feel unsafe will only hurt business?”
— Jennifer, Brooklyn
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. We may feature your response in a future newsletter.
Register here to receive the briefing via email
Email your thoughts to email@example.com.
Source: NY Times