To slow the spread of the coronavirus, President Joe Biden spent his first 100 days in office urging Americans to wear masks and stay at home. His mission for the next 100 days will be to chart a course back to normalcy.
When Biden took office, he worked quickly to address vaccine availability problems, more than tripling the country’s capacity to prescribe them. However, ending the coronavirus pandemic, the core obstacle of his administration, would necessitate more than just getting bullets in guns — a mission that is becoming increasingly challenging as demand dwindles — but also a robust agenda to help the country recover from a year of isolation, disruption, and uncertainty.
If Biden declares war on a virus that infected about 200,000 Americans in January and destroyed over 3,000 of them per day, the next few months will be akin to winning the peace. Already, deaths are down to less than 700 every day, with an estimated daily case count of less than 60,000. Officials in the United States insist that there is still a long way to go until the government can be at peace, but progress has been made.
Go ahead, success would include completing the nation’s herculean vaccination programme — to date, 43 percent of Americans have had at least one shot — overcoming lagging interest, and explaining clearly what practises those that have been vaccinated may safely restart. Biden’s July Fourth promise that Americans can peacefully meet with friends and families, as well as the launch of the new school year, where the president plans to make all schools open safely, are key landmarks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was set to release new guidelines on outdoor mask use for unvaccinated people on Tuesday, ahead of Biden’s scheduled speech on the state of the pandemic response later that day. Officials said that in the coming weeks, they would work on relaxing guidelines for vaccinated citizens, both to recognise their reduced risk and to have an opportunity to get vaccines.
“We’re enthusiastic about the success we’ve made and the opportunities ahead of us, and we’re farther along than almost everyone expected because of the vaccine infrastructure we built,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients in a Monday interview. “It means we’re getting closer to normalcy.”
On Inauguration Day, the idea of COVID-19 vaccine production exceeding demand appeared fanciful, with only priority classes qualifying for vaccines and an illicit economy developing for “extra doses” for everyone else. Shots are now so widely available in many areas that the Biden administration is urging states and drug partners to set up walk-in clinics with doses without appointments.
This “latest era,” as Biden’s team refers to it, has been in the works long before the president’s inauguration. To avoid losing time, Zients and other officials drafted a slew of emails to kickstart the federal bureaucracy, all of which were submitted within minutes of their government email addresses being triggered. And as more Americans get vaccinated, the White House, according to Zients, is not relenting with its urgency.
“I believe the same strategy that served us well in the first 100 days will serve us well in the next 100 days,” he added.
One of Biden’s first acts as president was to expand the federal government’s orders for vaccination in order to guarantee enough doses for all Americans by early summer. The United States will now transition to sharing some of the precious supply with the rest of the world, as the White House reported Monday it will do with nearly 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the United States but not yet approved for use there. At the same time, the White House was instrumental in reaching a deal with drugmaker Sanofi on Monday to help ramp up manufacturing of Moderna’s two-dose shot, which accounts for more than 40% of doses administered in the United States, by next year.
Believing that more Americans who have failed to get vaccinated will do so if it were easier, the White House has spent billions of dollars in advertisements urging vaccinations, community services that deliver doses to the most difficult-to-reach Americans, and tax breaks to allow businesses to give their employees compensated time off to get vaccinated.
“In this next round, we’ll concentrate on the availability, building morale, and helping to place equity at the heart of everything we do,” Zients said of the drive to have as many Americans vaccinated as possible in the coming months. “It won’t be quick, but neither was reaching 200 million shots in less than 100 days, which we did.”
To date, Biden and his advisors have erred on the side of caution, if not outright caution. Officials were hesitant to relax travel restrictions for vaccinated people not because they were concerned about their safety, but because they were concerned that unvaccinated people would accompany them.
“The president has been very transparent that he will still fire straight for the American people, and that is aligned with the wartime initiative of his leadership,” Zients said, echoing Biden’s call for the administration to “lead with science and facts.”
In March, Biden expected that limited, in-person crowds of vaccinated citizens would return for the July Fourth holiday, and aides later explained that he thought that would be possible without masks. Many saw it as an unnecessarily conservative expression of what the majority of the country was still doing. It also mirrored the remaining unknowns of how to reboot a country that had been in a state of semi-hibernation for a year.
“The nation has had plenty of lockdowns,” said Harvard professor of health policy and political science Robert Blendon.
Blendon said, “I believe there is friction within the administration.” “Anyone who monitors national mood understands that the more a firm road map is laid out, the happier people in this country will feel.”
Although analysts warn Biden that “we can’t predict it’s going to turn out exactly that way,” he adds that people’s lives will be easier if the administration “could set down, by September you’ll do this, by November you’ll do this.” However, there are these unknowns.”
The proliferation of “mutant” strains of the virus, declining demand for vaccination, and the public’s growing need to return to normalcy are the factors that keep White House officials up at night.
“It’s a race against time,” said Mark Schlesinger, a Yale professor of health policy, of the rush to have more people vaccinated because the virus is already spreading and potentially deadly strains are developing.
Biden’s next 100 days will enable him to promote many of the pre-pandemic habits that he has been discouraging for the last year while still watching for variants and pockets of contamination, in an uncomfortable change in public communications.
Federal relief funds and pent-up demand would spur expansion in the wider economy. However, the future of core industries of the US economy that hire millions, such as travel and hospitality, is dependent on how Biden handles the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
“The question for the Biden administration is, if they continue to portray a nationwide portrait of how America is as a whole, how can they wisely cope with the variation and get the more laggard states and places where vaccine hesitancy is still strong and many young populations are still uncovered?” Schlesinger said. “The million-dollar one.”
The politics of making the virus answer right cannot be forgotten by Biden, who was elected to end the pandemic but has a much wider policy agenda. “The relief would be unbelievable if the president is able to get us back to some kind of everyday life,” Blendon said. “And he’ll get a lot of credit for it.