The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Vaccine Vexation for the Biden Administration

President Joe Biden signs an executive order at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst

On the menu today, President Biden promises to increase America’s daily vaccinations from almost 940,000 per day to a million per day; Jen Psaki declares that Biden and Kamala Harris did not wear masks on federal property, as his new executive order requires, because “we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.” We’re off to a roaring start, America.

Biden Promises to Marginally Improve a ‘Miserable Failure’

We’ll get to the Biden administration’s announcements and moves on the pandemic in a moment, but first, let’s take stock of where we are.

There’s a good chance that since mid-March 2020, the pandemic has seriously disrupted your life. You may have lost your job or switched jobs. You’ve been told to stay at home for long stretches. If you’re lucky, your kids are back in school, at least part time, but many of us are still in this abysmal “distance learning” that is failing far too many kids. You may not have seen elderly relatives in rest homes. You’ve avoided parties. Your life has probably not included air travel, family gatherings, large crowds, concerts, live sporting events, conferences, big holiday celebrations, or any of the other happy moments that make life enjoyable. It’s been ten months of take-out and Netflix and you’re pretty tired of it.

If you’ve been lucky and not caught the virus, you now face something of a sunken-costs problem. You’ve been good and followed the rules. You’ve worn your mask, you’ve gone through gallons of hand sanitizer, you’ve avoided crowds, you’ve tried to keep six feet away from everyone outside of your household. You would love to loosen the reins a little bit, maybe have some people over. You’re yearning for a little more human interaction that government edicts have cruelly denied you and your family for almost a year.

But now you’re hearing that even more contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2 are floating around out there, and you would feel pretty foolish and frustrated if you caught COVID-19 right before you were able to get vaccinated. You would probably be fine. Treatments are improving, although the data aren’t quite as clear-cut as doctors would prefer. But you would hate to accidentally spread it to someone more vulnerable than you, and we’re still losing around 4,000 souls a day to this virus.

You told yourself, all through 2020, that you just had to get through this miserable year, and that a vaccine was on the way. Except now we’re three weeks into 2021, things don’t feel different, and you’re still waiting for a vaccine. You may have called your state or county and tried to get yourself or older loved ones registered for vaccination. Websites keep crashing, phone lines are jammed, and when you do get through, the answer is usually some variation of, “we haven’t gotten to vaccinating people like you yet, keep waiting.” It’s all over again. You’ve made huge sacrifices and done everything you’re supposed to do, but your government, at multiple levels, keeps tripping over its own shoelaces.

Kevin Williamson likes to point out that everything looks simple when you don’t know the first thing about it; I’d add a corollary that every government problem looks easier to fix when you’re not in a position to fix it. On the campaign trail in October, Joe Biden famously announced, “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m not going to shut down the country, I’m going to shut down the virus,” as if there was some sort of simple, easy, no-tradeoffs solution that the Trump administration was too stubborn to try. Keep in mind, Biden is no stranger to unrealistic promises. Before this pandemic started, Biden promised that as president, he would cure cancer.

President Biden promised “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days,” and most media entities called it “extremely challenging.” But the first caveat is that this meant getting two shots into 50 million people, because both of the currently approved vaccines require two doses.

The second point is that in the past week, as Biden was moving into the White House, the U.S. averaged 939,973 doses per day, according to Bloomberg’s tracker, so . . . Biden is promising a mild improvement of about 60,000 doses per day. For perspective, if every county in America vaccinates 20 more people per day, the million-shots-per-day threshold will be met.

Yesterday in the Oval Office, Biden said, “while the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far.” Why is Biden promising to vaccinate just 60,000 more people per day than a “dismal failure”?

When pushed on this point, Biden responded with a line that is quickly turning into a sitcom catch-phrase:

Reporter: Mr. President, you said you set the goal at 100 million vaccines in the — is that high enough? Shouldn’t you set the bar higher? That’s basically where the US is right now.

Biden: When I announced it, you all said, ‘It’s not possible.’ Come on, give me a break, man.

A CNN Bombshell That Turned Out to Be a Dud

Yesterday, CNN offered what it seemed to think was a bombshell: “Joe Biden and his advisers are inheriting no #coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, sources tell CNN. ‘There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch.’” My first thought was that this is the sort of accusation serious enough to warrant an administration official going on the record.

Lo and behold, in the on-the-record press conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci poured cold water on that preemptive excuse:

Reporter: Is the Biden administration starting from scratch with the vaccine distribution effort, or are you picking up where the Trump administration left off?

FAUCI: No, I mean, we certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution. But if you look at the plan that the President has put forth about the things that he’s going to do — namely, get community vaccine centers up, get pharmacies more involved; where appropriate, get the Defense Production Act involved, not only perhaps with getting more vaccine, but even the things you need to get a good vaccine program — for example, needles and syringes that might be more useful in that. So it’s taking what’s gone on, but amplifying it in a big way.

Q: President Biden said that what was left was “abysmal,” essentially. Is there anything actionable that you are taking from the previous administration to move it forward? And is that delaying your efforts to get the vaccine? I mean, that’s the question that —

FAUCI: No, I mean, we’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the — with the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. So we are continuing, but you’re going to see a real ramping-up of it.

CNN’s updated article features Fauci’s on-the-record denial of the story’s premise in the eighth paragraph.

Jen Psaki: Masks Are Important, Except When Celebrating a Historic Day

Biden also said yesterday, “One of our 100-day challenges is asking the American people to mask up for the first 100 days, the next 99 days. But masks can become a partisan issue, unfortunately. But, it’s a patriotic act. But for a few months to wear a mask, no vaccines, the fact is that they’re the single best thing we can do. They’re even more important than the vaccines because they take time to work.”

It’s a “patriotic act” and “the single best thing we can do” that he will opt-out of doing every now and then.

Q: Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night, if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times?

PSAKI: At the Inaugural —

Q: At the Lincoln Memorial. Yes.

PSAKI: I think, Steve, he was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country. And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives. We take a number of COVID precautions, as you know here, in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.

Q: But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the “example of power” but the “power of our example.” Was that a good example for people who are watching who might not pay attention normally?

PSAKI: Well, Steve, I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID; the requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public. Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I don’t think — I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.

No. To hell with you guys. Don’t tell us that wearing masks in public is a matter of life and death, and then when called out for not wearing masks in public, shrug it off with, “We have bigger issues to worry about at this time.”

ADDENDUM: If the rarely-working-correctly U.S. House of Representatives website is accurate, the House has held 18 votes so far this year. Jazz Shaw reminds us that New York’s 22nd congressional district still doesn’t have a member representing it, because they still haven’t sorted out who won. What a colossal embarrassment for that district, and our country.


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