President Joe Biden claimed on Wednesday that he doesn’t see it as a “failure” of his administration that there has been a dire shortage of COVID-19 tests amid the recent explosion in cases due to the Omicron variant.
At the same time, he did seem to express some regret that he didn’t ramp up necessary supplies before the nation got hit with yet another winter coronavirus surge.
Announcing his plan to deal with the Omicron outbreak on Tuesday, the president declared that the government would distribute 500 million free rapid in-home test kits in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Ironically, it was just weeks earlier that the White House press secretary had outright mocked that very idea.
Furthermore, Biden also said he would offer military medical personnel to hospitals stretched beyond capacity and redouble vaccination and booster efforts.
Facing criticism that he did not act proactively as the highly transmissible Omicron variant became the dominant strain, Biden was confronted by ABC News anchor David Muir on Wednesday whether he felt he’d done a sufficient job tackling the ongoing pandemic.
EXCLUSIVE: @DavidMuir pressed President Biden on the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases and the lack of testing kits ahead of the holidays as Omicron spreads. (1/2) https://t.co/DkIEogixtm pic.twitter.com/ftYsCf9X3O
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) December 23, 2021
“We're nearly two years into this pandemic, you’re a year into the presidency, empty shelves, and no test kits in some places three days before Christmas when it's so important,” Muir said to the president. “Is that good enough?”
“No, nothing’s been good enough,” Biden responded, adding: “But look, look where we are. When last Christmas, we were in a situation where we had significantly fewer vaccinated—people vaccinated, emergency rooms were filled. You had serious backups in hospitals that were causing great difficulties. We’re in a situation now where we have 200 million people fully vaccinated.”
The World News Tonight anchor, however, noted that there are scenes across America of people waiting in the cold for hours just to get tested. “If you go to the pharmacy, we hear this over and over again, empty shelves, no test kits. Is that a failure?” Muir pressed the commander-in-chief.
“I don't think it's a failure,” Biden insisted. “I think it's—you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago.”
He then expressed a bit of contrition that his administration didn’t stock up on in-home tests earlier.
“I wish I had thought about ordering half a billion [tests] two months ago,” Biden said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Biden also repeated his now-familiar refrain that no one in his administration could have anticipated the Omicron surge, even though he did concede that public health experts did feel that additional variants were possible.
“Nobody saw it coming. Nobody in the whole world,” he said.