On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that we will have enough vaccinations for all adults in the United States to get vaccinated by the end of the summer. That means, at a minimum, six more months of social distancing and mask-wearing. Our communities will remain rife with rules and tests, maybe even quarantines and more lockdowns. More months living with uncertainty and instability. More isolation for people living alone and those unable to socialize outside. On a personal level, at least another half a year will go by before my kids’ friends join us at the dinner table. By the time I see these kids again — most of whom I’ve known since kindergarten — they will all have become teenagers. Still, I feel nothing but hope.
Biden acknowledges that the effort to get vaccines in arms “will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we’ve ever undertaken as a nation.” His initial prediction that most adults would be able to get vaccinated by spring has already been pushed back. Many states haven’t even used the majority of their vaccines yet. So why do I feel good?
Because, at last, we have a competent leader who is determined to both tell us the truth and improve our lives. We have a president working for the American people, not against us.
In the 8 days since Biden took office, we have learned more about Trump’s failed response to the pandemic. The evidence from the past year points to many factors: the rampant bungling, the magical thinking, the lack of federal funding to the states, the administration’s interest in herd immunity. And we can assume another cause of the failure — Trump did not care whether Americans survived COVID.
We all witnessed the chaotic rollout of the vaccine. We saw massive inequities in distributing vaccines, heard about doses getting tossed out, viewed photos of seniors waiting in line overnight for a shot; even in California, where we pride ourselves on being forward thinkers, we rank in the bottom third of U.S. vaccine distribution.
Trump also prevented Biden from finding out what was happening behind the scenes. When the incoming team finally got their hands on Trump’s COVID plan, Biden generously described it as, “in worse shape than we anticipated.” A source in his administration spoke more bluntly: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch.” It’s no wonder that people around the country have taken to comparing getting a vaccine to The Hunger Games.
I have no doubt that Biden will face difficulties as well. But so far, Biden has used executive orders to take significant steps to reclaim our country from COVID:
- Mandated mask-wearing on federal property and on public transportation
- Established a pandemic testing board to expand testing supply and access
- Invoked the Defense Production Act to manufacture PPE, testing kits, and other COVID/vaccine-related items
- Established the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force
- Created a pandemic testing board that will also help the distribution of free tests to those in need
- Arranged to purchase 200 million more doses of vaccine (more than enough for every adult in the country)
- Increased vaccine allocations by 15%
- Instructed the CDC to develop standards for the safe reopening of schools
- Required that passengers on inbound US flights be tested for COVID
- Pledged to let scientists lead
In the coming weeks, Biden has also promised to streamline and increase vaccine supply and distribution, provide states a three-week forecast of the number of vaccines they will receive, and reopen the ACA markets so people can purchase health care coverage.
But if you’re worried that Biden isn’t being ambitious enough, just try to weigh Biden’s 8 days of action against the measures that Trump took over the past year of COVID. (You can’t because he did nothing.) And know that Biden is just getting his feet wet. Our country faces a national calamity that cries out for governmental intervention on the scale of the New Deal. With the help of FDR, Americans beat back the darkness of the Great Depression and now we will beat back the dark winter of 2021. I believe we all can see the light at the end of the tunnel — we just might need to squint a little to make it out.
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