While Joe Biden’s July 4 fireworks marked a moment to declare the pandemic’s darkest days over, Monday was the day the reality emerged that the nation’s fight against Covid-19 was quickly returning in the wrong direction.
A hybrid version of American life that will pass for normalcy for the foreseeable future is looming, in which most of the vaccinated live and many of those who refuse their vaccines fall ill or die.
In a moment of austere symbolism, new school guidelines released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics on a mask bearing dashed hopes that children deprived of part of their childhood by Covid-19 could return to school without worries this fall. The prospect of millions of young people over the age of 2 wearing face covers in class illustrated just how besieged the nation is by the virus. It is also likely that it will spark another political culture war in some GOP states that hate masking and have banned schools from seeking to protect vulnerable people in this way.
In another shock to the national psyche on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 700 points in its biggest drop of the year as alarm over virulent Delta variant infections hammered travel stocks , leisure and energy that had been fueled by the idea of a summer of freedom.
Instead, First Lady Jill Biden’s trip to Japan later this week is likely to highlight the risk that these Olympics could be defined by the ongoing pandemic, as positive tests cloud the opening ceremony of Friday – including one by a young American gymnast. Yet the fact that the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth will take place – without a crowd – represents another moment of humanity searching for some recognizable semblance of life with the pandemic still raging.
All of these developments, in many cases, represented a realization that hopes that the virus would be in the rearview mirror this summer were unfounded and that some sort of new national effort is warranted.
“If we don’t vaccinate a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people, you are going to have a smoldering epidemic in our country for a considerable period of time,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious disease expert. , CNN’s Kate Bolduan told CNN on Monday.
Canada takes the lead in vaccine race
The feeling of a nation still far from normal was highlighted by the news that Canada, which suffered a brutal springtime amid a vaccine shortage, surpassed the United States in the percentage of fully vaccinated adults. Unlike much of the United States, there is little politicization of vaccines north of the border. In another reminder of how Covid-19 continues to reshape the world, Washington has warned citizens not to visit the UK – after England lifted all restrictions despite soaring cases of the virus.
The vaccine miracle – 48.6% of Americans are fully protected and there are particularly high levels of immunization among older populations – means the United States is not in the same situation it was a year ago.
But the refusal of many citizens to get vaccinated – a trend compounded by conservative misinformation – means many Americans face far more misery to come, even as many of their compatriots rebuild their lives.
Things didn’t help Sunday when former President Donald Trump – who seems more keen to deepen distrust of Biden than convincing his herd to get the vaccines he helped develop – added to the pile propaganda campaign on vaccines.
Dr Richard Besser, former acting director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN on Monday that he believed many unvaccinated people would end up infected with the Delta variant “given its contagiousness. – as good since you see concentrations of people who have not been vaccinated living together. “
The surreal feeling of a nation stuck in weird Covid limbo at the end of the term will be exacerbated on Tuesday by scenes of another billionaire – Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – preparing to blow himself off the unhealthy planet in a rocket personal.
Fauci described the nation’s new reality as “really unfortunate, because what everyone wants in this country – and elsewhere in the world – is to be able to crush this epidemic in the sense of getting the level of vaccination so high that the virus has nowhere to go. “
As every American faces a dilemma in terms of the risks they will take – and how far to return to normal in terms of family and work life – the new phase of the Covid crisis presents a particular challenge for Biden .
Presidents are defined by how they respond to the crises they face, and Biden did almost everything he could to fulfill his self-proclaimed mission when he took office to end the pandemic – including by begging millions of skeptical Americans to get vaccinated before the Delta variant comes to them.
But it’s hard to see what strategic change the president can make to improve the situation in the short term as conservative propaganda threatens to overwhelm government outreach efforts designed to market life-saving vaccines. Touching Republican voters who don’t trust him, minorities who believe past vaccination efforts have been detrimental to them and the skepticism of rural Americans, who haven’t seen much of Covid-19 and think they haven’t do not need to be vaccinated, is unlikely to be reached by another presidential speech.
The president, who will appear at a CNN town hall on Wednesday evening, took a step back from his claim last week that social media companies like Facebook were ‘killing people’ with disinformation, which seemed to betray frustration that his efforts have been undermined by things. out of his control.
“Facebook doesn’t kill people – these 12 people are there to give out misinformation. Anyone who listens to it suffers. It kills people. This is bad news, ”Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday.
He appeared to cite data from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) which indicated in March that a dozen people were super-diffusers of anti-vaccine misinformation.
It was not clear why Biden had backed down. But perhaps waging a war of disinformation with Facebook may not be the most productive way to temper vaccine skepticism, especially at a time when the pandemic is worsening.
More than 32,000 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported per day over the past week, a 66% increase from last week and a 145% jump from two weeks ago.
With numbers so gloomy, Monday’s reckoning day may have been late.