As we approach the end of the Biden Administration’s first year, there are positive signs of a shift in its approach to fighting the COVID pandemic.
Increasingly, the administration has adopted the more balanced approach the left so harshly criticized as lockdowns swept the nation – but that red states, such as Florida, have enthusiastically embraced.
After two years of pleas by those of us who advocated this commonsense approach, it’s fair to ask why the Biden administration is suddenly embracing it?
In a word, the answer is – ‘reality.’
Biden has grossly underperformed the expectations he set with respect to fighting the virus and Americans noticed.
Reality can be hard to ignore.
Biden’s oft repeated – and spirited – campaign vow that he would ‘shut down the virus’ has given way to his concession that, in reality, ‘there is no federal solution.’
Biden’s claim that Donald Trump was personally responsible for 220,000 pandemic deaths and that ‘[a]nyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain President of the United States,’ must now face the reality of over 400,000 COVID deaths since he took office.
Biden’s promise of a ‘national strategy’ to defeat COVID has collapsed under the reality that his only meaningful strategy was to coerce Americans to take the vaccines developed under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed – the same vaccines he railed against as untrustworthy during the campaign.
As disingenuous as Biden’s campaign rhetoric appears today, that was not the case just 13 months ago.
According to exit polling, 66 percent of the voters for whom the coronavirus pandemic was the top issue voted for Biden. That may have won him the election, but that worm has turned.
Increasingly, the Biden administration has adopted the more balanced approach the left so harshly criticized as lockdowns swept the nation – but that red states, such as Florida run by Governor Ron DeSantis (right), have enthusiastically embraced.
As Omicron spreads throughout the highly vaccinated, masked, socially distanced and basically blue Northeast – making it hard to blame evil unvaccinated Trump voters – the American people are increasingly fed up with the Left’s oppressive and unsuccessful effort to use COVID as a justification for fundamentally transforming our nation.
According to a recent Monmouth University poll, 46 percent of Americans believe Biden has done a good job handling the pandemic, down from 62 percent in April.
Those are the lowest marks Biden has received since taking office, and the number is unlikely to improve as the Omicron variant spreads.
While some Americans surely bought into Biden’s campaign claim that he would actually ‘shut down’ the virus, others realized Biden’s goal was never to set realistic expectations.
Rather, it was to defeat President Trump regardless of the costs in terms of credibility or political repercussions. But people did expect that Biden would at least competently manage our response to the virus.
That simply has not been the case.
A year into the Biden presidency, people are still having a difficult time finding something as simple as a COVID test.
As Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, stated: ‘I cannot believe this is where we are almost two years into the pandemic. Everybody saw it coming. We knew we needed more tests. I think the administration had dropped the ball on this.’
As Omicron devastates New York City, people are lined up for blocks just to get tested. I have a son who lives there and got COVID before Christmas. He searched for an at-home test. There were none.
Monoclonal antibody treatments, effective against the Omicron variant, are also in short supply even though the Food and Drug Administration first approved them for emergency use in November of 2020.
As recently as August, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (above) stated, ‘We are not shutting down. We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses.’
In our federal system, the State governors are largely responsible for deciding whether and when to impose lockdowns and other social distancing measures. The federal government is responsible for stockpiling diagnostic tests, therapeutics and other medical countermeasures.
The Biden Administration has consistently interfered in the first area, where it doesn’t belong, while neglecting its responsibilities in the second. Hence the shortage of tests and therapeutics.
Just last week, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra accusing the Biden administration of ‘actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments.’
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services also issued a statement on Monoclonal Antibody Availability claiming that regional infusion centers had ‘exhausted their supply . . . due to the national shortage from the federal government.’ A number of other states, including Maine and New York, are also suffering shortages.
So, why has the Biden administration so grossly failed to meet even limited expectations in the fight against COVID?
Part of the problem has been the Left’s view of the pandemic as more of an opportunity to implement radical leftist policies than as a problem to be solved.
That may sound harsh, but I’m just taking them at their word.
Early in the pandemic, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) described it as ‘a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.’
Candidate Biden signed onto this approach early stating that the pandemic created an ‘incredible opportunity to not just dig out of this crisis but to fundamentally transform the country.’
With their focus on not letting ‘a serious crisis go to waste,’ as former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once famously stated, it is perhaps not surprising that the Biden’s administration’s COVID response has failed so miserably.
Imagine what could have occurred had the Biden administration put an Operation Warp Speed level effort into, for example, making COVID tests and monoclonal antibody treatments available.
The good news is that the Biden administration’s effort to ‘fundamentally transform’ America has hit a wall, or at least stalled.
The Biden administration’s shift against lockdowns may be picking up steam. New York City’s new Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, declared Monday that he’ll do everything in his power to keep kids in classrooms, even as staff shortages threaten to shutter schools.
The Democrats did manage to pass their $1.9 trillion so-called ‘Covid Relief’ bill – which had little to do with COVID relief and much to do with juicing inflation to the point where it’s become impossible for Americans not to notice.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) noticed and, at least for the time being, has effectively killed Biden’s so called ‘Build Back Better’ bill, which would have burdened our nation with enough spending, debt and big government socialist entitlements to all but destroy our free-market capitalist economy.
So, as Omicron spreads throughout the highly vaccinated, masked, socially distanced and basically blue Northeast – making it hard to blame evil unvaccinated Trump voters – the American people are increasingly fed up with the Left’s oppressive and unsuccessful effort to use COVID as a justification for fundamentally transforming our nation.
The Biden administration has apparently noticed because its COVID narrative appears to be changing.
We are hearing less about ‘following the science’ as the sole standard under which we will fight the pandemic.
Rather, like most red states, the administration is now considering societal needs and economic factors alongside epidemiology as they address the Omicron surge.
The Center for Disease Control, for instance, has reduced the quarantine period for people who test positive for COVID and are asymptomatic from 10 days to 5 days.
According to Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, ‘one of the things that we want to be careful of is that we don’t have so many people out. We want to get people back to the jobs, particularly the essential jobs, to keep society running smoothly.’
That has a familiar ring.
As recently as August, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated that ‘We are not shutting down. We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses.’
Given the veracity of his prior statements, take this with a grain of salt, but Biden is vowing that his administration will not fight the Omicron variant ‘with shutdowns or lockdowns,’ and that, lacking a ‘federal solution,’ his administration will place more reliance on states to get us through the pandemic.
It’s a positive shift and it may be picking up steam.
New York City’s new Democratic mayor, Eric Adams, declared Monday that he’ll do everything in his power to keep kids in classrooms, even as staff shortages threaten to shutter schools.
‘It’s time to live with COVID and build systems around COVID until it dissipates and leaves us. Until then, the city has to operate,’ he said.
In red states like Florida, Texas, Georgia and my home state of Tennessee, life has been as back to normal as you can get for quite a while.
It’s sad that politics and fear mongering have made it such a difficult journey for much of the rest of country.
Nonetheless, this horrible period in our lives can come finally to an end if the Biden administration is truly willing to change its ineffective and authoritarian COVID policies, embrace reality and focus on the pandemic more as a problem to solve and less as an opportunity to seize.
Mr. Puzder is a former CEO of CKE Restaurants, chairman of 2ndVote Value Investments, Inc., and a senior fellow at the America First Policy Institute.