At a recent address announcing new steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, a reporter reminded Joe Biden that he said not long ago, "If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask."
The president’s response? "I never said that."
But, as the reporter reaffirmed, he did. He also told us in recent weeks: "The virus is on the run."
With COVID-19 infections surging 250% from the low point recorded in June, it sure doesn’t seem that way.
Americans are anxious. Everyone wonders: Does the vaccine work against the fast-spreading delta variant? Are all vaccines equally effective? Should we be taking another dose? If fully vaccinated people are protected against COVID-19, how is it that so many people in the news – John Rahm, Olympic athletes, Democrats from Texas, White House aides --are coming down with the virus?
Will we have to shut down the economy again?
The emergence of the delta variant has put the president and our medical authorities on their back foot. Their messaging on everything from masking to the efficacy of the vaccines has been confused and erratic.
Finally, this week, President Biden spoke about the spike in infections, telling Americans:
The vaccines may not prevent you from getting sick, but they are the best weapon available to keep you out of the hospital and will almost certainly prevent you from dying.
We will probably not need to shut down businesses, but the odds of our recovery continuing improve dramatically as more people become vaccinated.
A booster shot may evolve that would enhance protections against current and future strains of the coronavirus. But, your best bet now is to get vaccinated. Today.
The 7-day average of new cases of roughly 40,000 is rising fast, but we are not even close to the peak recorded earlier this year of more than 250,000. Because the vaccines work, deaths and hospitalizations have increased only slightly."
What took him so long? More important, why hasn’t he been more successful in convincing Americans to get the vaccines?
Joe Biden had one job to do when he took office in January. He didn’t need to boost the economy; it was already growing at 6%. He didn’t need to strengthen our border; Trump had done that.
No – all President Biden needed to do was to make sure that enough Americans were vaccinated to staunch the spread of Covid-19. Getting people to take the shot was priority number one, essential to reopening businesses, starting up schools and getting people back to work. Essential to life going back to normal.
He failed to do that.
Currently, just over 68% of Americans have received one shot; under half are fully vaccinated. That’s not good enough.
Biden has a million excuses and scapegoats. He has blamed Facebook and other social media giants for allowing "misinformation" to spread, and to cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of the shots.
He and his surrogates have blamed Republicans, and right-wing commentators, saying they spread misgivings about the inoculations.
At the same time, Biden has refrained from calling out Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat notables who suggested early on that they would be nervous about taking "Trump’s vaccine."
In addition, he hasn’t reached out aggressively to African-Americans, though it appears that a disproportionate number of people in that community have refused the vaccine.
It turns out that our biggest problem may not be the red states but rather the inner cities. For example, only 36% of people living in Detroit have received at least one shot, about half the total in surrounding Wayne County, Michigan, where 61% are vaccinated.
Biden is also ignoring the hundreds of thousands of people crossing into our country illegally every month along our southern border. Many of these people are sick with COVID-19; 30% are refusing to take the vaccine. It is especially outrageous, as the virus spreads, that tens of thousands of these migrants are being sent to cities and towns across the nation.
The delta variant is not Biden’s fault, any more than the emergence of COVID-19 was Trump’s fault, but Uncle Joe ran on conquering COVID-19, and he is not winning.
His latest response includes:
*Paying businesses to provide paid leave to employees so they can get the shot;
*Asking all cities and states to offer the newly vaccinated a reward of $100;
*Asking the Department of Defense to research requiring personnel to get the vaccine;
*Demanding federal employees get vaccinated or wear masks at all times and get tested regularly.
These measures may help, but they are not enough. What else could Biden do?
First, get Donald Trump to promote the vaccine. He might persuade those who don’t trust Biden’s government but do trust the former president.
Tell Facebook and Twitter to restore Trump’s social media platform, to help this cause. The social media police can make it clear that if he questions the 2020 election outcome, he will again lose his privileges.
Get more Black leaders involved, especially in urban areas. In New York City, vaccination rates are below 50% in a slew of public agencies, like the Police, Sanitation and Homeless Services departments. That is ridiculous; these people are especially vulnerable and also out in the community.
Close the southern border. This is an open wound and needs to be fixed.
Push the FDA to approve the vaccine. Many people are questioning why the FDA is dragging its ponderous feet in signing off on the vaccines; their refusal to do so even as tens of millions have taken the shot, does not build confidence among the hesitant.
During the campaign last year, candidate Joe Biden called out President Trump for "incompetence and dishonesty" in how he managed COVID-19. The media is protecting President Biden from such charges today, but polling shows the American people are becoming less forgiving. For good reason.