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Politics The pandemic turning point the White House didn't want

08:30  31 july  2021
08:30  31 july  2021 Source:   cnn.com

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In a sign of the White House 's desire to control the messaging, top officials fanned out across cable news after Biden spoke Thursday, including his chief of staff Ron Klain and senior coronavirus adviser Jeff Zients, neither of whom regularly appear on weekday television shows. The 25 days that transpired between Biden's Fourth of July party, where 1 The month of July could well be a turning point , but not in the way the White House had hoped. August is set to open awash in new uncertainty about the pandemic , his handling of which has earned him some of the most favorable marks of his presidency.

The White House . (Joshua Roberts/Reuters). Opinion by Tim Morrison. It has been alleged by multiple officials of the Obama administration, including in The Post , that the president and his then-national security adviser, John Bolton, “dissolved the office” at the White House in charge of pandemic preparedness. Because I led the very directorate assigned that mission, the counterproliferation and biodefense office, for a year and then handed it off to another official who still holds the post, I know the charge is specious.

President Joe Biden is tired of wearing a mask.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Joe Biden holds his face mask as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) © Susan Walsh/AP President Joe Biden holds his face mask as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Stepping into the East Room on Thursday, his face covered in black surgical fabric for the first time in weeks, the President made no attempt to disguise his disappointment at returning to the most charged symbol of the pandemic era.

"In a significant part of the country, you wouldn't have to take one of these off because you don't have to put one on," he said, brandishing his mask in his right hand as a case-in-point of how things, in a matter of weeks, have gone astray.

Team Biden Somehow Failed to Hire Someone to Fight Vaxx Disinfo

  Team Biden Somehow Failed to Hire Someone to Fight Vaxx Disinfo As early as last autumn, public health experts and political leaders were sounding the alarm that conspiracist campaigns posed a dire threat to a future nationwide vaccination program—a threat that necessitated the appointment of a “disinformation czar” to counter anti-vaccine messaging. The incoming Biden administration initially intended to heed those calls by placing a disinformation expert on the White House COVID-19 Response Team, according to multiple members of the transition team, but never followed through.

The White House is dealing with a second major leak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in less than a week, which again shows the agency offering more detailed and restrictive guidance on reopening the country. The guide was leaked by an anonymous source, who the AP said was “not authorized to share the document with the press.” But the second leak reflects growing dissent inside the agency on how the federal government is handling the pandemic . CDC officials were reportedly “uncomfortable” tying their guidance on mitigation to reopening the country and voiced their

The White House has defended the president's top coronavirus adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, amid scrutiny of his recently released work emails. Dr Fauci has been the face of the nation's Covid-19 response, drawing both praise and criticism. "I'm very confident in Dr Fauci," President Joe In his defence, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Dr Fauci had been an "undeniable asset". In a daily press briefing on Thursday, she said: "The president and the administration feel that Dr Fauci has played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control, being a voice to the public throughout

Biden was understating where his administration's new mask guidelines apply; more than 80% of the US population — about 274 million people — live in a county considered to have "high" or "substantial" Covid-19 transmission, where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now suggests even vaccinated people wear masks indoors.

Yet Biden's essential sentiment — that the country has backslid into conditions many once hoped had permanently passed — amounted to a stark turnabout for a President eager to move on. A CDC slide presentation, leaked on Thursday evening, only underscored the unwelcome direction the pandemic has taken six months into Biden's presidency: the predominant Delta strain is highly contagious and can be transmitted even by people who are vaccinated.

COVID was a boon for autocrats — future pandemics must prioritize democracy

  COVID was a boon for autocrats — future pandemics must prioritize democracy Lessons from the current pandemic indicate that preparedness for future crises should center on measures that are supportive of democratic development. Against the current backdrop of authoritarian ascendence, a democracy-blind emergency response can shift power to the benefit of non-democratic actors. While still adhering to humanitarian principles, national and international disaster risk reduction strategies should be grounded in an understanding of political dynamics and proactive in identifying resilience and response measures that shore up democratic institutions and processes.

Instead the pandemic came to him. A day after breaking his White House self-isolation for a cross-country trip meant to signal the country's readiness to restart, Trump received word that one of his Oval Office valets tested positive for the virus. Two days later, Vice President Mike Pence's press The arrival of coronavirus to the West Wing only served to illustrate the continued spread of the disease months into a pandemic that's taken more than 77,000 American lives and turned a once hot economy to ice. Even the nightly deep cleanings, regular testing and a lot of wishful thinking couldn' t prevent the

The key point of unreality in all this is that the pandemic has repudiated the globalist assumptions underpinning this new utopia (or, rather, dystopia). Covid has vindicated the validity of the national state. It is attempting to sidestep the most important lesson of the pandemic : that the future is much more dependent on the public’s willingness to embrace disruptive change than on any concrete transformation programme. We are part of the solution, not the object of elite largesse.

As he left the White House for Camp David on Friday evening, the President was asked if he thought that even tougher guidelines and restrictions would have to be implemented to combat the summer Covid surge.

"In all probability," he told reporters before walking, maskless, across the South Lawn to board Marine One.

A surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the contagious Delta variant has forced Biden to drastically rethink his approach to the pandemic, three weeks after he told the country on Independence Day the virus "no longer controls our lives." In doing so, he is testing the nation's forbearance amid changing rules and sometimes-confusing messages.

"I think you're going to find the patience of businesses and the patience of a lot of other people running thin," Biden acknowledged Thursday, a description his aides said could also apply to him. He has vented in meetings about a stalled effort to vaccinate the nation and grown frustrated at hitting what one described as a "brick wall."

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  Experts Slam Biden's ‘Unconvincing’ Push for Vaccine Mandate The White House is set to announce the largest vaccine mandate in modern history in the coming days in response to growing concern over the delta variant of COVID-19, the latest and most abrupt change in a pandemic response strategy that has yet to get the virus under control. Federal workers and contractors will soon be required to prove that they are fully vaccinated, or will otherwise be required to wear masks and undergo routine COVID-19 testing, according to a source familiar with the upcoming mandate.

Meanwhile, the White House is also putting pressure on states to reopen schools without any plan at all to protect the safety of students, teachers, and staff. As Paul Krugman explains at The New York Times, highlights the dilemma we face: So we’re now facing a terrible, unnecessary dilemma. CNN reported being given bullet points listing statements made by Fauci early in the pandemic which it said “resembled opposition research on a political opponent”. On Monday Trump himself picked up the offensive, retweeting a post from a former TV dating show host which criticized the federal CDC.

A turning point isn’t an endgame, or a victory, or a cessation of the need to struggle — for speedier decarbonization, for a sturdier future, for climate justice. Already, a future without profound climate suffering has been almost certainly foreclosed by decades of inaction, which means the burden of managing those impacts equitably will be handed down, generation to generation, into an indefinite This is not exactly a climate revolution; the strikers and their allies didn ’ t win in the way they wanted to, at least not yet. But they did win something. Environmental anxieties haven’t toppled neoliberalism.

In a sign of the White House's desire to control the messaging, top officials fanned out across cable news after Biden spoke Thursday, including his chief of staff Ron Klain and senior coronavirus adviser Jeff Zients, neither of whom regularly appear on weekday television shows.

The 25 days that transpired between Biden's Fourth of July party, where 1,000 invited guests listened to the President declare near-independence from the virus, and Thursday, when he offered stern "straight talk" about the tragedy of vaccine holdouts, were marked by intensifying debate inside the administration over taking more urgent action to prevent the virus from again taking hold, according to people familiar with the matter.

What appeared like a dramatic shift over the course of days had, in fact, been slowly building within health agencies and the White House for weeks as officials sought more information about the Delta variant spreading across the country.

While Biden had been reluctant to take the step of mandating vaccines, he and his aides sought legal advice from the Justice Department earlier this summer on whether employers could require their workers to be vaccinated — including in the federal government. A legal memo sent to the White House on July 6 — two days after Biden's Independence Day party — stated federal law doesn't prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring Covid-19 vaccines, even if the vaccines have only emergency use authorization.

Analysis: White House dominance of pandemic message might feed political divides

  Analysis: White House dominance of pandemic message might feed political divides Once a week, sometimes twice a week, the nation hears the official report about the coronavirus pandemic -- straight from the White House. © White House Photo White House Covid-19 Briefing on June 22. Just as former President Donald Trump owned the first year of the pandemic, Biden owns the second year. And while it's important to have the White House and President out front in a national emergency of this magnitude, it's likely the near total White House domination of the response is widening the unhelpful political divides that are making it harder than it needs to be to fight coronavirus.

A disappointing turning point

The month of July could well be a turning point, but not in the way the White House had hoped. August is set to open awash in new uncertainty about the pandemic, his handling of which has earned him some of the most favorable marks of his presidency. A mix of frustration and exhaustion is palpable inside the West Wing, where advisers suddenly are wearing masks once again and no longer as confident about putting coronavirus in the rear view mirror.

As case counts rise in states where hesitancy remains pervasive, officials fear a scenario where schools are again forced online and work-from-home continues into another season. The worry extends to the economy, where a labor shortage already complicating the recovery could become even more troubling if the pandemic worsens. Tensions have been high inside the West Wing in recent days as officials have sought to confront a new challenge: their first significant backslide in progress against the virus.

Steps Biden had avoided for months are now suddenly in play, like vaccine requirements and mandates. A return to masks, viewed internally as politically perilous, was ultimately deemed unavoidable — though the administration stopped short of the "universal masking" the CDC recommended in the internal document made public this week.

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Officials said they were persuaded to change the guidelines after seeing the grim assessments about the transmissibility of the Delta variant and its ability to be spread even by people who have been vaccinated, an alarming finding that led the agency to warn in internal documents that the "war has changed" against the virus.

"I think people need to understand that we're not crying wolf here. This is serious," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Thursday. "The measures we need to get this under control -- they're extreme. The measures you need are extreme."


Video: Why isn't Biden mandating the vaccine for Federal workers? (CNN)

After receiving that Justice Department memo, Biden held off on announcing a vaccine requirement for federal personnel for another three weeks as health agencies gathered more information about the spread of the virus and the new Delta strain. Without firm data on the science of the variant, it was difficult for officials to recommend a course of action to the President, who has been adamant that science lead his Covid-19 response but remains highly attuned to the politics of his decisions.

Disturbing new data

That all changed with the alarming data CDC officials presented to the White House this week detailing the Delta variant's ability to cause severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox. The document, which was made public on Friday, also cites studies showing even vaccinated individuals could transmit the virus as easily as those who haven't gotten shots — though are still far less likely to be hospitalized or die.

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That information wasn't initially presented when the CDC changed its mask guidelines on Tuesday, drawing accusations of muddled messaging from some medical experts. Though Walensky conducted a telebriefing on the new guidelines, the White House did not convene its usual weekly press conference with public health officials.

"Mostly the right policy, terrible communication," former Baltimore Health Commissioner and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said on Wednesday. "I'm confused and I think many people are very confused about what exactly happened and why."

That frustration is also present inside the administration, where officials have struggled to explain why the CDC held off on publishing data behind the changes in masking and testing for fully vaccinated people for over 48 hours. Several officials, who spoke to CNN anonymously, argued it should have been released when Walensky announced the policy change Tuesday. While there is consensus on stricter measures, officials lamented the poor communication to an understandably confused American public.

On Friday, as the CDC was releasing its data publicly, the White House said the agency had prioritized changing its mask guidance as quickly as possible once learning of the new science.

"The CDC's first and foremost priority is getting the American people information as quickly as possible. And so that's what they did on Tuesday. They got it as quickly as they can," deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a daily briefing. "It was clear that vaccinated people have the ability to transmit and action needed to be taken quickly. And that's why they did it ahead of releasing the data."

A constant distraction

After seeking to shift the spotlight away from the pandemic in favor of his other agenda priorities, the new information about the Delta variant has forced Biden to return focus to the still-raging pandemic. Even the welcome news inside the White House that lawmakers had struck an elusive bipartisan deal on infrastructure was obscured by the renewed focus on coronavirus.

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Biden hasn't been shy in airing his annoyance.

"I'm talking about Made in America today. That's all I'm talking about," Biden said over the roar of Air Force One when he arrived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, shrugging off a barrage of shouted questions about whether he'd require vaccines for the military. "Tomorrow I'll talk about whatever you want to talk about, including Covid."

A day later, Biden lashed out again when asked why he said in May that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks.

"I thought there were people who were going to understand that getting vaccinated made a gigantic difference. And what happened was: A new variant came along, they didn't get vaccinated, it was spread more rapidly, and more people were getting sick," he said as he walked out of the East Room.

Behind the scenes, Biden has become increasingly frustrated and feels as if the nation has hit "a brick wall" when it comes to getting shots in arms, according to people familiar with his thinking. In private meetings with top aides, Biden has raised one question repeatedly: "What's the problem?"

The President gets daily updates on vaccination rates, hospitalizations and deaths. His briefings have focused lately on the formidable Delta variant, but advisers have also warned that if the stalled vaccination campaign doesn't improve soon, another — and potentially worse — variant could surface, further derailing progress the US has made.

As of Friday, the pace of new vaccinations was the highest it's been since July 5, according to CDC data, but half the country still remains unvaccinated.

The White House has long resisted getting involved in coronavirus vaccine mandates and credentialing systems, fearing doing so would only feed right-wing accusations of government overreach and undermine efforts to convince hesitant conservatives to get vaccinated.

But stalled vaccination rates -- particularly in southern, conservative states -- propelled the White House in a different direction.

"You don't pursue routes that we announced today until you've gone through and given people the opportunity to get vaccinated," one source close to the White House said, pointing to the importance of giving Americans the choice to get vaccinated before turning to harder-line tactics.

Biden asked the Pentagon this week to develop a plan for making the vaccine mandatory for military personnel, something aides once feared could set off a firestorm of opposition. And the President says it is still an open question whether the federal government can mandate vaccines for the whole country; the White House insists that option is not being considered.

Biden administration health officials increasingly believe that making vaccination mandatory or unavoidable is the only way to break stalled vaccination rates that are keeping the US from reaching herd immunity. Officials hope requirements within the federal government could encourage the private sector and local governments to follow suit.

About 6% of adults said they would only get vaccinated if required, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's most recent monthly survey. Another 10% said they will "wait and see" before getting vaccinated.

Ahead of Biden's announcement that he was requiring all federal employees attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols, the White House reached out to key union representatives to lay the groundwork for the decision, people familiar with the discussions said.

The conversations with both public and private sector union officials weren't seamless, the people said. Some representatives raised concerns about the speed with which the White House was moving toward a position they previously hadn't endorsed, as well as potential pushback from union members.

There was immediately blowback from some federal workers, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which said requiring vaccines infringed on civil rights.

Still, significant levels of public pushback from national labor groups before and after the announcement was scarce — something one official attributed to the decisive nature of the groups' conversations with the White House.

"It was less of a 'what do you think about this' conversation and more of a 'here's what we're doing' conversation," one of the people said.

How Anita Dunn got 'to the table' and has helped other women follow .
More than 40 years ago, Anita Dunn was walking into the White House as an intern in then-President Jimmy Carter's administration."I'd walk over here," she said in an interview with CNN last week, pointing to the iconic White House gate, "and tourists would stop, looking at me, and I'd be thinking, 'I'm not actually important.

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