It’s ironic that Vice President Joe Biden is taking a victory lap this week to celebrate the administration’s recent legislative successes while the deadline to extend the public health emergency for COVID-19 approaches.
Biden’s expected extension of the public health emergency is a sign of how far things have come since the pandemic began; at the present time, many Americans are preoccupied with the economy and the largest spike in inflation in four decades, and the news may not even register as major.
The midterm elections are not shaping up to be a referendum on former Vice President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic; rather, they are becoming a bitter partisan contest over issues like abortion, immigration, and the effort by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
According to Nancy Mills, a former chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, “the pandemic won’t be the primary focus of the midterms.” “We’re in a much better position now than we would have been in 2020.”
Biden’s personal experience with the virus over the past few weeks highlighted both the progress made in containing the pandemic and the persistent issues that have yet to be resolved.
However, Biden, who is fully vaccinated and double-boosts, experienced only mild symptoms from his two recent COVID cases. The pandemic has not been eradicated, as evidenced by the president’s illness.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor of immunology and infectious diseases Eric Rubin said, “We’re making progress, lots of progress, but our lives are still disrupted” by the pandemic.
The United States is experiencing an average of about 107,000 new cases per day due to the highly contagious but less lethal BA.5 variant of COVID-19. Every day, the disease claims the lives of nearly 400 people.
Among adults in the United States, 77% have received all recommended vaccinations, per data from the CDC. However, only 51% of adults have received all recommended vaccinations, including at least one booster shot. Adults aged 50 and up are eligible for a second booster shot, but only 32% of those eligible have actually received it.
The most recent numbers show some promising trends. In the wake of the outbreaks of the Delta and Omicron variants, mortality rates skyrocketed. In the United States, hospitalization rates have decreased as well, compared to the epidemic’s previous high points.
However, public health experts believe that the true number of cases is likely lower because an increasing number of people who obtain positive results from at-home tests choose not to report them. As a result, it is more challenging for authorities and scientists to comprehend the nature of the illness and to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines and antiviral drugs.
Professor of microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University Andrew Pekosz said, “It’s hard to say what the hospitalization rate and death rate are after infection are because we no longer know what the total amount of cases are.”
In any case, according to Pekosz, COVID isn’t going away anytime soon, and the public would be wise to brace for the inevitable appearance of new strains. Now, “that is the most likely if not absolutely guaranteed pathway that we’ll see,” he said.
The current administration of Vice President Joe Biden is dealing with a recent outbreak of the monkeypox virus and a possible increase in cases this fall and winter.
Antiviral medication Paxlovid, with which Biden was treated, has been made widely available through the efforts of the federal government and local pharmacies. Also, the federal government has purchased from Pfizer and Moderna at least 171 million doses of a “bivalent” vaccine booster that will be directed at the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. It has not yet been determined whether or not either booster will receive final approval from the FDA.
Yet, according to Rubin, there is still a great deal to discover about the virus’s mutation process and its potential future forms. He pointed out that the public’s fatigue with a virus that has persisted for three calendar years, from Trump’s initial public health emergency declaration in March 2020, is exacerbated by misunderstanding.
Rubin acknowledged, “There is a tremendous amount of real uncertainty.” “Many of these questions have no clear answers. Extremely straightforward messages are rare.”
The White House hasn’t always nailed its messaging during pandemics. If elected, Biden said he would take a different approach to COVID than Trump, listening to his health and science advisors and not giving false hope about the course the virus might take.
Biden has made combating the pandemic one of his top priorities as vice president. The president’s public statements of optimism about the pandemic’s course have, on occasion, turned out to be overly optimistic. The government has been called on to defend its policies on vaccinations for children under the age of 5 and the use of protective masks in public.
Over time, public opinion has shifted negatively toward Biden’s leadership during the pandemic, according to polls.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, only 43% of U.S. adults in May thought Biden was doing an excellent or good job handling the pandemic. From 54% in February of 2021, the percentage dropped. The poll found that Republicans were significantly more skeptical of vaccines and masks than Democrats, and were also much more likely to disapprove of the government’s handling of COVID since Biden took office.
According to Alec Tyson, a lead researcher for the Pew poll that surveyed over 10,000 adults, the public’s declining support for Biden’s pandemic efforts is reflective of a wider decline in public trust in the vice president on a variety of issues and in his performance as president. Even so, Tyson pointed out that there was a clear partisan divide when it came to opinions on Biden’s COVID policies.
As the coronavirus outbreak has progressed, “the partisan gaps we see are as wide as they have ever been,” Tyson said.
It’s possible that less public panic about the pandemic is good news for Biden. According to a January Pew survey, 57% of Americans said they were very concerned about the pandemic. This figure has since dropped to 41%.
In contrast to the early stages of the pandemic, “the public is less acutely concerned about the outbreak [of COVID],” Tyson said.
According to Pekosz, government agencies should watch out for complacency to set in as the pandemic loses media attention.
“We can’t forget about the pandemic,” he urged the Biden administration to emphasize more. To assume that “we don’t need to think about COVID, it’s in the past,” he continued, “would be a mistake.”
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