News analysis: Biden is reminded that the COVID pandemic is not over yet


When President Biden walked maskless into the House chambers for his first State of the Union earlier this month, the White House hoped it would signal that the nation was recovering from a pandemic that was overwhelming hospitals and killing nearly 1 million people nationwide the corner had gone.

Still, Biden didn’t claim victory like he did last summer, only to watch cases and hospitalizations soar as the U.S. was swept by the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus. “I can’t promise there won’t be a new variant,” Biden said. “But I can promise you that if that’s the case, we’ll do everything in our power to be ready.”

This balancing act shows how Biden remains caught between a population eager to return to normalcy and the reality of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be abating. Less than two weeks after his maskless speech to Congress, there is an increase in infections worldwide. In China, a surge in cases attributed to the extremely contagious Omicron variant has prompted massive closures. Cases are also rising in Europe, an ominous sign that another surge in infections could be on the horizon in the US

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Thursday accepted the “great danger of a new wave”.

People close to the President have also contracted the virus. Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, tested positive on Tuesday. Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin tested positive a day later – after attending a gala with US lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who sat maskless next to him.

That positive test forced Biden to cut short his face-to-face meetings with him Taoiseach on St. Patrick’s Day. Former President Obama tested positive on Monday.

Those cases and the surge in infections around the world come as local and state jurisdictions controlled by both Democrats and Republicans have rolled back pandemic-related restrictions amid bipartisan exhaustion of such measures. Public health experts say the next wave could not come at a worse time, and there is little the Biden administration can do to mitigate it in the current political circumstances.

It’s likely that the United States will see a spike in infections within weeks, said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Health System.

The main reason for this potential increase is a “dramatic shift in our behavior,” Maragakis said. After hospitalizations eased earlier this year, government officials were “very excited to move forward with the lifting of restrictions. Unfortunately, that alone creates the conditions for the next climb.”

The White House also appears to be adjusting its strategies and staff in fighting the virus in light of the public’s desire to move on.

This week the government announced that it would be replacing its coronavirus response coordinator with Jeff Zients dr Ashish K.Jha, the dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. Jha appears frequently on cable news shows and tweets profusely about the pandemic. Biden in one statement said Jha was recognized for his “wise and reassuring public presence” and that he was “perfect for the job” of leading the nation into the next phase of the pandemic.

While the need for vaccination is still touted, 75% of adults are fully vaccinated federal statistics – The Biden administration is also asking Congress for more than $15 billion to bolster the country’s testing capacity and ensure uninsured Americans have access to free treatments. The spending bill has stalled in Congress thanks to Senate Republicans passing a resolution earlier this month ending the nation’s declaration of a state of emergency.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president knows how to deal with the pandemic. But if Congress doesn’t approve new spending, “the government runs the risk of running out of money to do just that,” she said.

“Just because COVID isn’t disrupting a part of our lives in certain communities as much as it was a few weeks ago doesn’t mean it’s gone,” Psaki said. “It’s not gone.”

Health experts say the government may be nearing the point where it will focus more on how the virus is affecting hospitals rather than overall infections.

American vaccines have proven to be excellent defenses against serious diseases. As the virus is likely to continue to spread around the world, “it could be argued that at this point in the pandemic, we shouldn’t be worried about infection,” said Dr. Leana Wen, professor of public health at George Washington University. Instead, she said, the nation could keep a close eye on when a serious illness “threatening to overwhelm our healthcare system.”

However, it will be a challenge for the Biden administration to do so without additional funds to stock up on treatments, vaccines and tests, Wen said.

“The window for preparedness and prevention is before we have another crisis,” she said. “We have tools that we didn’t have before in the fight against COVID. We can enable people to return to normal and protect our healthcare system from being overloaded again.”

How the virus will play out in the coming months is likely to have political implications for Biden and his party, especially as polls show voters are frustrated by the pandemic and inflation, and usually take their anger out on the party in power. Democrats narrowly control both houses of Congress and face strong odds of retaining them as Biden’s approval rating hasn’t risen significantly since January.

A March 17 poll conducted by Monmouth University shows that only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance, while 54% disapprove. Biden also gets mixed marks on how he’s handled the pandemic.

Steve Israel, former New York representative and former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that for Biden and the Democrats to have a chance in November, they need to convince voters that COVID-19 is essentially behind them and the people ” must feel in their bones that the economy is getting better.”

“The problem is that there is no way to predict or build a political strategy that will handle these external events,” he said. News analysis: Biden is reminded that the COVID pandemic is not over yet

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