Biden Faces Covid-19 Testing Campaign Failure

Biden promises Paxlovid distribution in January 1:02

(CNN) – US President Joe Biden and his team repeatedly promised that more covid-19 tests would be available, including home kits that offer quick results, but now admit that a virus, which is more adaptable than the politicians who fight it, surpassed them once again.

For many Americans, this holiday season may be remembered for hours spent in long lines to get tested, or fruitless searching drug store shelves for antigen tests, as the omicron variant took over. the previous delta wave. The latest highly transmissible variant has already exposed the shortcomings of the tests, and the United States compares unfavorably with other developed nations where citizens have easy access to rapid tests for free.

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Biden told governors in a virtual meeting on Monday that his administration should have done more to accelerate the availability of rapid tests, ahead of its promise this month of 500 million kits due to begin shipping in January, which will be too much. late to help this week’s holiday crisis.

Biden acknowledges that covid-19 tests weren’t enough

“It is not enough. It is clear that it is not enough. If we had known, we would have gone stronger, faster if we could have,” said the president, referring to the omicron variant that has quickly overwhelmed existing testing capacity. In an interview with ABC News just before Christmas, Biden denied that the shortage of home testing represented a “failure.” But he added: “You could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago.” The president said he wished he had thought of ordering 500 million home tests “two months ago.”

Biden: They can enjoy the holidays if they are fully vaccinated 5:42

These comments from the president, while sincere, are unlikely to improve public confidence in a White House that has pledged to end COVID-19, but which at times appears to have underestimated the staying power of the virus and the scale of the challenge. . The administration has had some significant successes in fighting this emergency, despite the politically motivated reluctance of millions of Americans to follow the president’s advice on potentially life-saving vaccines. And on Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance in a way that may make the current outbreak less disruptive to everyday life, shortening The recommended times for people to isolate themselves when they have tested positive for COVID-19, 10 days to 5 days, if they have no symptoms, and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days.

But it is not the first time that, when it comes to testing, the White House has been forced to catch up after successive waves of a pandemic that has managed to take advantage of political divisions, slow bureaucracy and impatience and the fatigue of the public before a crisis that will soon enter its third year.

Another political blow for Biden

The frustrating search for COVID-19 evidence that many Americans endure may also have a political fallout for Biden, who is looking to rebound from a gloomy months in which his approval ratings have dropped. After all, he has promised to fix the paucity of evidence revealed by the recent wave of viruses.

By running on the competition, he put the issue at the center of his 2020 campaign, which was based in part on highlighting the failures of former President Donald Trump during the first year of the pandemic. And in an address to the nation last March, for example, the president said, “We continue to work to make home testing available.”

More than nine months later, he now admits that not enough has been done. These comments make it difficult to accept the arguments that the White House was taken by surprise by the omicron variant. Many experts have been saying for months that rapid tests should be more widely available to the public.

This was the first year of the Biden government 3:52

It’s no secret that new variants of the virus were inevitable. And a recent episode in which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at the idea of ​​sending a test to all Americans – a goal that Biden has now embraced – further confused the administration’s stance on this new phase of the pandemic.

The confusion has frustrated some public health professionals who say there are simply not enough kits to allow people who are sick, those exposed to someone who has been infected with the virus, and people who want to travel and attend meetings. do the test.

“It’s really embarrassing that we don’t have the amount of evidence we need to be able to use it as the robust containment tool that we know it to be when used effectively,” said Dr. Chris Pernell, a public health physician and member of the College. American in Preventive Medicine, to CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.

All of this can lend credence to the Republican midterm election messages that Biden has failed in his self-proclaimed number one task – defeating the virus – even though it is the Republican Party’s repeated attempts to politicize the fight that have often pushed back the response to the pandemic. The party’s continued devotion to Trump, which once urged public health officials to do less testing to discover fewer COVID-19 cases, also calls into question its sincerity on this matter.

A dangerous turn in the crisis, fueled by the lack of evidence

The new controversy over testing follows another critical turn in the pandemic. On Sunday alone, more than 200,000 new cases of covid-19 were registered in the US, and some experts expect that number to soon reach half a million a day. Although there are encouraging signs that this variant causes fewer hospitalizations than previous incarnations of COVID-19, even a small proportion of severe cases could overwhelm healthcare systems given this level of infections. This is especially true in areas still struggling with an increase in the delta variant of the virus and in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain comparatively low.

Expert advice to avoid the impact of the omicron variant 8:47

The government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, admitted Monday on CNN’s “New Day” that the testing situation could be better, despite constant warnings from experts for months. that it is not expansive enough.

“You know, testing has always been a problem,” Fauci told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, adding that the situation had been compounded by hordes of Americans wanting to travel on vacation just as the omicron variant hit.

“There has been very, very strong pressure on the testing campaign,” said Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Obviously, there is an excuse for it: we should have had more evidence available. But let’s hope that now, as we enter the first two weeks of January, it will improve a lot. “

Biden has taken several recent steps to fix the deficit. In early December, he ordered health insurers to reimburse Americans for the cost of home tests, which can run as high as $ 20 for a kit or more. He then promised Americans that he would make 500 million rapid tests available to them for free, although they won’t start shipping until at least next month. While that influx could be critical as the omicron variant spreads, it cannot alleviate the Christmas rush or frustration among people who now believe they are infected.

Washington is caught off guard again

Home tests are not foolproof and they are not a panacea for ending the pandemic. They are less important than vaccines and reinforcements to combat the wave generated by the omicron variant that is forming. But they are a useful tool that could allow Americans to make informed decisions about their own health and plans. They could confirm if a cold is actually COVID-19 and help people protect vulnerable family members or decide not to go to work to avoid infecting others.

The paucity of tests is all the more notable given that the United States led the world in rapidly deploying vaccines, in a program that began under the Trump administration and was extended by Biden’s White House team.

Wave of contagions in Europe pulverizes all previous highs 2:05

Some companies looking to roll out rapid tests have complained of a prohibitive regulatory process at the US Food and Drug Administration. There have also been complaints about a flood of test options, including some from abroad that have overwhelmed the ability to evaluate them. This is a critical issue, as rushing the approval of tests or allowing those with deficiencies to enter the system could undermine the credibility of the tests in general, and be a negative factor in the effort to end the pandemic.

However, this situation also appears to have some of the classic ingredients of a Washington gaffe. A White House consumed by crises seems to have diverted its attention somewhat. It is also possible that the increasingly urgent signals coming from the White House and the suddenness of the omicron surge have not reached the bureaucratic chain. Events have overtaken politicians and now there is a risk that guilty will be sought. None of which is likely to bring the country closer to liberating from the pandemic it yearns for in 2022.

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