That is … not the soundbite I was expecting from a guy whose entire COVID campaign message was “Elect me and I’ll change the trajectory of this pandemic.” I mean:
I’m not going to shut down the country.
I’m not going to shut down the economy.
I’m going to shut down the virus.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 30, 2020
For four years, anti-Trumpers of all stripes would point to outlandish things Trump said and ask, correctly, “What if Obama had said that?”
This may be the first real “What if Trump had said that?” moment of the Biden administration.
President Biden urges Congress to pass more COVID relief:
“There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.” pic.twitter.com/BmogfKwwSg
— The Recount (@therecount) January 22, 2021
“Haven’t we been told for months that restrictions and mandates were necessary to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months?” asked Justin Amash in response to this clip.
I assume Team Biden would say yes, of course they’re going to change the trajectory of the pandemic but that requires moving mountains and mountains don’t move overnight. They’re working on another big fat round of economic stimulus, but that’s not going to pass tomorrow. Especially with Senate Republicans sounding skeptical of shelling out more dough:
Susan Collins sounds like a no, Romney sounds like a no, Murkowski doesn’t sound like a yes.
That bipartisan $1.9 trillion virus relief extravaganza Biden wanted is in the middle of a Failure to Launch. https://t.co/eMNEIg62ON
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) January 21, 2021
Biden is committed to at least trying to bring 10 Republicans onboard before throwing in the towel and passing a stimulus via reconciliation, which would allow Schumer to do it with 50 votes. That’ll take time. And of course, even if checks went out the door tomorrow, the economic impact won’t be felt immediately. It’ll take a few weeks, or months. The dismal trajectory of pandemic economies doesn’t change instantly.
The dismal trajectory of the pandemic itself can’t change instantly either. In a country where everyone suddenly decided to social-distance rigorously in order to drive down cases, sure. But we’re not that country. So, realistically, there are only two things that will make things better. One is warmer weather as we move into spring and the other, of course, is the vaccine. But spring is nearly three months away (remember that March weather didn’t spare NYC from a disaster last year) and there are only so many people who can be vaccinated on a given day. Even if we reach two million vaccinations a day, which remains a mere aspiration…
Pres. Biden on vaccines: “Yesterday the press asked…’Is 100 million enough?’ Week before, they were saying, ‘Biden, are you crazy?'”
— ABC News (@ABC) January 22, 2021
…it will in fact be months before we have enough people vaccinated to see herd immunity effects. Assume we need 150 million more people to be immunized in order to see herd immunity start to set in; at two doses apiece and a clip of two million doses a day, that’s a cool five months until we reach the end zone. The good news is that we’re already on the way up, having vaccinated 1.3 million people just yesterday. The bad news is, well…
[F]ederal health officials and corporate executives agree that it will be impossible to increase the immediate supply of vaccines before April because of lack of manufacturing capacity. The administration should first focus, experts say, on fixing the hodgepodge of state and local vaccination centers that has proved incapable of managing even the current flow of vaccines…
From April on, the supply outlook brightens. Pfizer and Moderna have each committed to supply another 100 million doses by the end of July, and the companies might be able to provide even more. A week ago, Pfizer and BioNTech, its German partner, increased their global production target for the year to two billion doses from 1.3 billion doses.
We may yet face a shortage. No one’s blaming a guy who’s in his second full day on the job for that. But the fact that he and his team are now racing to lower expectations on handling the pandemic, sometimes in disingenuous ways, raises the question of how much better we should realistically expect Biden to be on this issue than Trump was. The messaging will be light-years better. But in terms of practical policy improvements, we’re headed for a partisan brawl circa April over whether Team Joe’s performance has been meaningfully above replacement-level or not. Will there really be a new, streamlined, efficient delivery mechanism for vaccines at the state level by then or will case counts be receding simply because people are outdoors more and vaccine distribution inevitably got faster with practice the same way testing did?
I’ll leave you with Fauci, who clearly prefers the new guy to the old guy.
JUST NOW: “It very likely did.”
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) January 22, 2021
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