Blaming COVID: Biden sees common culprit for country's woes

For now, in the administrations view, an intransigent minority that is resisting vaccination is spoiling the recovery for the rest of the country forcing masks on the vaccinated and contributing to lingering anxiousness everywhere you look.Asked why Americans arent getting the message that the economy is improving, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this past week Were still in the middle of fighting a pandemic and people are sick and tired of that.


PTI | Washington DC | Updated: 27-11-2021 19:52 IST | Created: 27-11-2021 19:51 IST
Blaming COVID: Biden sees common culprit for country's woes
US President Joe Biden Image Credit: ANI
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Inflation is soaring, businesses are struggling to hire and President Joe Biden's poll numbers have been in free-fall. The White House sees a common culprit for it all: COVID-19.

Biden's team views the pandemic as the root cause of both the nation's malaise and his own political woes. Finally controlling COVID-19, the White House believes, is the skeleton key to rejuvenating the country and reviving Biden's own standing.

But the coronavirus challenge has proved to be vexing for the White House, with last summer's premature claims of victory swamped by the more transmissible delta variant, stubborn millions of Americans unvaccinated and lingering economic effects from the pandemic's darkest days.

All of that as yet another variant of the virus, omicron, emerged overseas. It is worrying public health officials, leading to new travel bans and panicking markets as scientists race to understand how dangerous it may be.

Although the economy has actually been coming back, there are multiple signs that COVID-19 will leave its scars even if the pandemic fades. For now, in the administration's view, an intransigent minority that is resisting vaccination is spoiling the recovery for the rest of the country — forcing masks on the vaccinated and contributing to lingering anxiousness everywhere you look.

Asked why Americans aren't getting the message that the economy is improving, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this past week: "We're still in the middle of fighting a pandemic and people are sick and tired of that. We are, too.'' The state of affairs, she said, affects everything from how people feel about sending their kids out the door to the price for a gallon of gas.

The administration views vaccination mandates as critical, not only to preventing avoidable illness and death but to safeguarding the economic recovery — and salvaging Biden's political position. "We have the tools to accelerate the path out of this pandemic widely available," White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told a coronavirus briefing. While he ruled out large-scale lockdowns like the United States experienced in 2020 and like those popping up again across Europe, Zients renewed the administration's appeals for more Americans to get their shots.

But on Friday, the discovery of the new variant in southern Africa had much of the world acting to to shut down travel from the region and contain a threat that the World Health Organization suggested could be worse than the ravaging waves from delta. Inside the White House and among allies of the president, there has been frustration for weeks over the slow government action to approve booster shots for all adults. The regulatory process, they fear, contributed to misinformation and confusion around the boosters and means the nation isn't optimally protected for the holiday season. Biden on Friday appealed for unvaccinated Americans to be "responsible" and get the shot and for those eligible for a booster to get that, too. "That is the minimum that everyone should be doing. ... We always talk about whether this is about freedom, but I think it's a patriotic responsibility to do that." Still, for all the hand-wringing over Biden's sagging standing with Americans, Democrats say a turnaround may be within reach.

"From Trump to Biden, people have gone from feeling like it's mourning again in America to feeling on the cusp of morning again in America," said party strategist Jesse Ferguson. "Getting past the pandemic unlocks the door for the economy, for our way of life and for people feeling less divided," he added. To Biden's critics, though, it's a stretch to blame all the nation's problems on COVID-19 or to think that containing the virus will solve them.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in fact, puts the blame for high prices on Biden's big pandemic relief package, saying recently: "There is no question what is keeping working Americans awake at night. Inflation. The runaway prices and unpredictability that Democrats' policies have fueled." The lingering effects of the virus have taken a toll on the president's approval ratings, even if his handling of the virus has been seen as a relative strength.

In an October AP-NORC poll, 54% of Americans said they approved of Biden's job on the pandemic. That was somewhat higher than his approval rating overall and much higher than approval on his handling of the economy, at 48% and 41%, respectively. As recently as July, 66% had approved of Biden on COVID-19 and 59% approved of his job performance overall.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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