(Trends Wide) — What Americans want most from Joe Biden is beyond his power: the end of the pandemic.
But the president will make a new attempt on Thursday to chart a path out of a national nightmare that is beginning to feel like a dark, repetitive and permanent reality, and demonstrate that he is the leader who can reach that elusive destination.
His speech will coincide with a terrifying new dimension of the emergency, with children now accounting for roughly one in four new infections, with hundreds hospitalized, a surge that terrifies parents and threatens face-to-face classes.
The furious resurgence of the crisis this summer, fueled by the delta variant of the virus, not only sowed even more human misery, with daily deaths now averaging more than 1,500. It interfered with the widespread perception that normalcy – vacations, family visits, back to the office – might be returning amid hopes for a summer of freedom earlier this year. The relapse into crisis also damaged Biden’s credibility as president-elect for leaving the pandemic in the past, as he declared on July 4 that the nation was emerging from a “year of pain, fear, and heartbreaking loss” and left a clear impression that the worst was over.
But as Trends Wide’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta pointed out Wednesday, the situation is somewhat more acute now than it was a year ago, and that takes into account the miracle of highly effective vaccines. This Labor Day, there were 3.5 times more covid-19 infections, 2.5 times more hospitalizations and twice the average daily deaths than at the same time a year ago, Gupta reported, citing figures from Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The pandemic has not followed exactly the same increasing and decreasing pattern as last time. With the growing understanding that previous expectations of eliminating covid-19 were too optimistic, there is a need for a national reckoning and readjustment of new expectations that only a president, with his megaphone and his profile, can achieve. In some ways, Biden is like a wartime president preparing his people for many more months of fighting. And Thursday’s speech will be watched closely to see how harsh the truths will be that Biden, who said while campaigning that he would always speak directly to the country, will be prepared to share.
Given the political sensitivities, he may not be as blunt as emergency room doctor Megan Ranney, who offered an unadorned diagnosis of the nation’s new reality on Wednesday.
“Covid is never going to go away. Anyone who says we are going to eradicate it or that it is expired is honestly lying,” said Ranney, associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University.
“Covid is going to exist forever. We have to learn to deal with it, and we have to turn it into something that is no longer as dangerous as it used to be.”
Biden faces a medical and political emergency
Today’s miserable reality is clearly not Biden’s fault. He has spent months pleading with Americans for free, effective, and ubiquitous vaccines that in most cases eliminate serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and that millions of people have received and used to regain a semblance of their lives. previous. The fact that the release of covid-19 is close, except for some new variant that avoids vaccines, but that millions refuse to take advantage of it is a disconcerting window on the vicious polarization of the nation and its deep distrust in the Government. Even now, that toxicity is compounded by politically motivated attacks on public health guidelines by several Republican governors, including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, who oppose the use of masks in schools.
But Biden undoubtedly faces a political emergency, as he is likely to be tried more than anything else for his handling of the pandemic and as approval ratings for his work begin to erode ahead of the mid-election year. period.
The administration has not been blameless. Recent confusion over whether booster shots will be available after September 20 has slightly clouded the White House mantra that science, not politics, is its guiding light. Some experts believe the relaxation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mask wear guide this year, which had to be reset as delta emerged, was premature. And declaring partial independence from the virus on July 4 appears to be another case, like Afghanistan’s chaotic withdrawal, from political schedules that drive events rather than reality.
Biden’s irritable humor and blame-blaming during the Afghanistan crisis mean he has additional personal and political motive for establishing a new command narrative on the pandemic.
The White House promises specific goals
While another presidential speech is unlikely to change the minds of vaccine skeptics who doubt its legitimacy, the president could make an emotional case that getting vaccines helps protect American children. Research shows that most children do not get seriously ill from COVID-19. But if thousands are infected, even small percentages of severe cases add up quickly, which explains why pediatric hospitalizations are reaching record levels. It is becoming quite clear that there will be no return to anything close to normal until vaccines for children under 12 are authorized, a milestone that is not expected until the end of this year at the earliest and possibly later.
Given these puzzling new facts, it behooves the president to refocus the nation’s attention on the task ahead, try to restore morale and deliver the kind of relentless truths he promised as a candidate.
The president is expected to establish a six-point plan, including increased testing and mask requirements, some new approaches to employer or company vaccination requirements, and booster shots for those already vaccinated, they reported. Trends Wide’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday.
One group of Americans particularly interested in hearing from Biden will be the doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who have been at the epicenter of the disaster for more than a year and who are exhausted and in many cases increasingly desperate for the people. who refuse to be vaccinated.
There is no question of the horror they face. In West Virginia, for example, hospitals are “flooded” according to Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who for weeks warned his fellow citizens that refusing the vaccine is playing the death lottery. Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear told Trends Wide’s Kate Bolduan on Wednesday that the state’s medical centers were reaching the point where they would have to ration care due to overcrowding.
“We are in a really difficult place,” Beshear said.
North Carolina reported Wednesday that it was seeing a sharp increase in covid-19 outbreaks among school sports teams, in another manifestation of the growing challenge to keep face-to-face education on track.
The new phase of the pandemic was underscored by new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics this week, showing that 26.8% of weekly COVID-19 cases nationwide occurred in children. The definition of a child varies by state, but generally includes those up to 17 or 18 years of age.
The accuracy of the data is being confirmed by the experience of front-line healthcare workers like Dr. Patricia Manning-Courtney, chief of staff for Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati.
“At this time last year, I was very comforted to be able to tell families that I was not so concerned about their children, that most children did not get sick, and that children weathered this very well,” Manning-Courtney said in ” Trends Wide Newsroom “.
“And that has completely changed,” he said, adding that several pediatric patients in Ohio were in ICUs and on ventilators. And while children with pre-existing conditions were at higher risk, there are other children who are getting seriously ill.
“I cannot promise any family that their child will not get seriously ill if they contract COVID,” Manning-Courtney said.
The worsening situation for children was the latest and most alarming sign that the pandemic has entered a new phase. During the Afghanistan crisis, Biden described his job as making judgments that others would not or could not make. You are facing another one of those fateful moments in the pandemic.