In his last statements before boarding the getaway plane on Wednesday, Trump took advanced credit for vaccine distribution and bringing an end to the pandemic. Which is a whole helluva lot easier than actually doing something about the pandemic when he had a chance. It’s now clear that Trump did actually develop one strategy: set back and take credit for every success of the Biden administration.
But as CNN reports, anything good that happens in getting vaccine into the arms of Americans is going to be an invention of the Biden team. Previous to the inauguration, the Trump team had been extremely reluctant to share information. Now that Biden’s staff is actually getting a look behind the curtain, they find they’re at “square one.” What they’re finding is “just further affirmation of complete incompetence.”
Biden has promised to get 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in his first 100 days. Clearly at least a few of those days are going to be devoted to implementing an actual plan, and the stonewalling that hid Trump’s strategic incompetence only makes things harder. Fortunately, this is not too far from the situation Biden’s team anticipated.
As The Washington Post reports, Biden’s staff has been working up a new national COVID-19 strategy even before they walked into the White House. On Thursday afternoon, barely 24 hours after taking office, Biden will speak to the nation to announce that new strategy. President Biden will reverse Trump’s lazy “leave it all on the states” nonstrategy by creating a national testing board, providing uniform guidance to schools and businesses, turning mask requirements on transportation from something spottily enforced by industry into regulations that carry penalties, and providing a real plan for vaccine distribution.
Biden also intends to immediately to use a power that Trump maddeningly refused to deploy: the Defense Production Act (DPA). As The New York Times reports, Biden’s team has already identified “12 immediate supply shortfalls” that include both personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies used in testing. The DPA will be deployed to order more of these materials and finally close gaps that have existed since the start of the pandemic.
The plan also calls for a massive increase in testing, including testing of populations and people without symptoms. With half the nation still showing a positive rate over 10%, and eight states having positive rates over 20%, it’s clear that most testing is currently restricted to those showing symptoms of COVID-19. But with half of all cases spread by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers, testing and isolating those who have active virus but are not showing symptoms is critical to finally crushing the pandemic.
A national testing strategy. Adequate levels of PPE and supplies. Consistent regulations for transportation, schools, and businesses. And a genuine plan to distribute vaccine as quickly as possible to Americans most at risk.
It sounds a whole lot like what experts recommended from the beginning. It sounds like something that could have saved a very large fraction of the over 400,000 lives that have already been lost.
President Biden is expected to deliver remarks on the new COVID-19 strategy at 2 PM ET. Anthony Fauci, who on Thursday morning participated in a call with the World Health Organization for the first time in months, is expected to be present. Daily Kos will be providing coverage.