Biden had been trying to find balance, saying “this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
So what was the telling moment? The telling moment came after Biden’s remarks, when he was asked to explain his comment about a forthcoming plan to deal with Omicron — which he kept mispronouncing as “Omnicron.” (Aside: It’s pronounced “OH-muh-kron,” according to CNN’s health team.)
Biden said, “On Thursday, I’ll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we’re going to fight Covid this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”
A reporter followed up and asked Biden why lockdowns are off the table.
“If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there’s no need for lockdown,” he said.
This comment was both true and confounding because what we’ve learned over the past few months is that a lot of Americans aren’t going to get vaccinated or wear masks.
What I heard from Biden’s response, however, is that it doesn’t matter how a new variant spreads — the federal government isn’t going to pick a political fight over lockdowns. The country plowed through the Delta surge this summer and fall and emerged with many Americans bucking the idea of masks in schools or vaccine requirements at jobs.
But developments on vaccine efforts and requirements are all over the place.
This vaccine requirement, which is set to go into effect December 6 in most of the country, came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The judge, in halting the requirement, gave his own medical advice when he said the “public would suffer little, if any, harm from maintaining the ‘status quo’ through the litigation of this case.”
He pointed to potential staffing shortages, particularly among rural health care providers, as a concern.
Bad news for doing the right thing. There’s a sad note of irony for a country like South Africa, where health authorities tracked the Omicron variant and alerted the world. Their good behavior is being punished with travel restrictions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the travel ban against South Africa and seven other countries in Africa is “not to punish” but to “protect.”
The US has donated nearly 8 million vaccine doses to South Africa, and Psaki said the country turned down the offer of more.
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