In effect, the President is putting a date on a return of a semblance of normal life — with no guarantee that he can deliver.
If the President succeeds, Tuesday may be remembered as a key turning point in a pandemic exacerbated by the former Trump administration’s disastrous response. Should he fall short, the credibility of his new presidency will take a serious hit, that would not only prolong the crisis into another fall and winter but would also hamper his ambitious program on other key issues.
In a show of presidential power six days into his term, Biden sought to galvanize the action
of federal, state and local governments into the kind of unified, national effort that had up until now been lacking during this once-in-century crisis.
“To a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way,” Biden said Tuesday, after announcing the purchase of another 200 million vaccine doses and a hike in distribution to states within days.
In some ways, Biden’s pledge included some political sleight of hand, since it will not get vaccine supply anywhere near levels demanded by the states in the short-term and he admitted deaths could hit half a million next month.
Tuesday’s announcement was both administrative and political.
It offered a rare morale boost after nearly a year of lockdowns, social distancing, separated families and sickness and death, especially coming in the darkest days of one of the grimmest winters in years.
“Let’s say we are able to get 300 million people vaccinated by the summer, life changes dramatically and we get out of this situation we are living in where the pandemic dominates our lives,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
Signs that there is finally a federal government that is not in denial and has a coherent plan could give businesses, from cruise lines to restaurants, the capacity to plan ahead — a crucial factor in the recovery of the economy from its pandemic stasis.
And Biden’s aggressive, daily, actions designed to combat the pandemic since taking office may also inject a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill as Republicans question the need for a rescue package that is vital to speeding up vaccinations.
New White House seeks momentum
Biden’s White House appearance was the latest in a series of choreographed events in recent days on issues from racial equity
, climate change and the economy designed to show a new president, in charge and gaining momentum. The planned string of announcements is clearly designed to signal a sharp break from the chaos and tweeted incoherence of the last administration.
In other encouraging news on Tuesday, a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study added
to the growing evidence that in-person schooling is low risk, as long as the right mitigation measures, including masking, are observed.
School closures have not only severely hampered the education of a generation of kids. They have complicated the lives of parents who struggle to work if they can’t access childcare. But the prospect of a return to class worries teachers unions — a strong force in the Democratic Party — amid concerns that especially older school staff are vulnerable to complications from the virus.
Signs of frenetic activity in the West Wing are already cheering governors used to inaccurate data and guidance from the Trump administration and who are pleading for more vaccine doses.