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After a campaign in which Joe Biden expressed supreme confidence that he could bring an end to, or at least substantially curb the damage wrought by, the coronavirus pandemic, his administration’s handling of the pandemic has left much to be desired.
Rewind back to last fall. Biden was giving speeches about how while he trusted vaccines in general, he didn’t trust Donald Trump, and was thus skeptical of the coronavirus vaccines in particular. Biden’s running mate, then-senator Kamala Harris, said that she’d be hesitant to take a vaccine that came out during Trump’s term. When pressed about whether she would do so if Dr. Anthony Fauci and other reputable health authorities endorsed it, she doubled down: “They’ll be muzzled; they’ll be suppressed.”
By December, it was clear that the vaccines were in fact on the brink of FDA approval, and that by the time Biden and Harris took their respective positions atop the executive branch, distribution would be well underway. Biden received the Pfizer vaccine mid-month, and Harris got it just before the year’s end. It was only right that the principals of the incoming administration should be protected. But it remains the case that Biden and Harris, without basis, undermined confidence in a medical miracle for their own political benefit and then jumped to the front of the considerable line for it.
After receiving the vaccine, Biden moved into the White House with a mandate to get the pandemic under control. He announced his moonshot plan for national vaccination: administering 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. This was a dishonest PR ploy. During the week of Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. averaged 983,000 vaccinations a day, meaning the administration was setting itself a benchmark it could already be assured of hitting. Naturally, the public noticed, and almost immediately Biden was forced to increase his goal: He would now be aiming for an average of 1.5 million vaccinations a day at the end of his first 100 days.
Already, we’ve reached that higher target, and not because of the Biden administration’s novel efforts. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty has reported, the Biden administration’s vaccination plan includes new federal sites, but no more doses of the vaccine. This presents not an opportunity to expand vaccination efforts — there are already plenty of places where people can be inoculated — but a bureaucratic obstacle that has made things harder on the states, some of which were not even aware that additional doses would not be made available at the new sites.
Even worse, yesterday’s Morning Jolt noted that there’s still a substantial gap between the number of vaccines provided by Pfizer and Moderna and the number of vaccines actually being administered:
As of this morning, according to the New York Times, Moderna and Pfizer have shipped more than 70 million doses to the states, and somehow the states have gotten only 52.8 million of those shots into peoples’ arms. The Bloomberg chart has a slightly better figure, showing states have administered 54.6 million doses, out of roughly the same total.
That leaves anywhere from 15.4 to 17.2 million doses either in transit or sitting on shelves somewhere. The country is vaccinating about 1.67 million people per day according to the Times data, 1.69 million per day on the Bloomberg chart.
The Biden administration has been similarly lackadaisical in its approach to school reopenings. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced last week that its goal was to have 51 percent of schools open “at least one day a week.” This target suffers from the same problem as the vaccination target: It’s already been met, and exceeded. Around 64 percent of school districts were already offering some kind of in-person instruction when Psaki spoke. The objective, given the enormous costs of virtual instruction on students, should be to open up the remaining 36 percent and turn partial reopenings back into full-time ones. To some extent, Biden walked Psaki’s stunningly slothful goal back during a CNN town-hall event on Tuesday, saying “I think many of them [will be open] five days a week. The goal will be five days a week,” and calling Psaki’s statement a “mistake.” Questions remain, though: If it was only a mistake, why did it take a week for it to be corrected? And why is the correction so vague as to leave room for fudging? How many, exactly, constitutes “many” to the Biden administration?
Biden’s expectations game is a symptom of a greater problem: He never had the plan for handling the pandemic that he said he did. His campaign-season contention that he did was always a smoke-and-mirrors act that had more to do with tone and messaging than it did policy. To cover up the absence of tangible changes that it’s brought to the table, the new administration has tried to flood the zone with already achieved objectives and then tout their achievement as accomplishments.
Dishonesty has many forms, and the Biden administration has proven itself no more forthright than its predecessors, even if its deceptions are sometimes more artful.