Biden Weighs Changing the Messaging as Omicron Spreads Rapidly

According to WHO, infections from the omicron variant of the coronavirus are doubling every one-and-a-half to three days in areas where there is community spread. And while there is still no evidence that the new variant is any more virulent than the previous ones, the sheer number of infections means that, even with a reduced rate of serious illness, omicron will soon overwhelm our hospitals.

That’s the grim reality facing Joe Biden and the credibility-challenged CDC as the president looks to find a way to salvage his presidency.

For our VIP Members: Omicron May Be Dud, But It Still Made Things Worse for Biden

Biden aides are pushing the president to alter the political messaging and highlight the number of severe cases rather than the number of infections. They are also speaking heresy by suggesting that Americans are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus.

Of course, this is exactly what Donald Trump said as long ago as July 2020. At that time, Biden responded, “Learning to live with it? Come on. We’re dying with it.”


Some of Biden’s advisers are encouraging the administration to begin discussing publicly how to live alongside a virus that shows no signs of disappearing, a potentially stark shift in messaging for a White House that once touted “freedom from the virus.”

Steering public attention away from the total number of infections and toward serious cases only — as some Biden advisers have encouraged — could prove a challenge after nearly two years of intense focus on the pandemic’s every up and down. It is a part of a growing conundrum that Biden faces as the Covid-19 pandemic refuses to abate.

“We’re getting to the point now where … it’s about severity,” said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a meeting with reporters this week. “It’s not about cases. It’s about severity.”

It would be politically convenient for Biden to stop focusing on the high number of infections, even though those numbers helped get him elected. But now that the sheer amount of cases is negatively impacting his presidency, it’s a different story.

Going forward, Americans should focus on hospitalizations and deaths as a metric for judging the president’s response to the pandemic.

“There’s a degree of difficulty that now comes in trying to decide what means it’s severe and what you have to do to stay out of that threshold of severity,” Becerra said. “But I think that’s where we’re heading, is to try to be able to tell the public that.”

Administration officials acknowledge the Omicron surge will likely rip through the country, a psychological setback for a population that’s become highly attuned to the pandemic. In some places where vaccination rates lag, the consequences will be debilitating, administration officials fear. But in areas where most people have received their initial shots and boosters, the effects could be minimal.

Biden can try and change the messaging all he wants but it won’t change the reality he has created around the coronavirus. Once the media began to focus on the number of infections during Trump’s presidency with no regard for the severity of the illness or whether someone got sick at all, Biden’s goose was cooked. The numbers may have played a significant role in Donald Trump’s defeat but they are also likely to doom Biden’s chances for a second term.

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