Biden’s Faltering Speech on His Covid “Winter Plan”


By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, sorry for the formatting issues. I actually had my chair collapse under me, and aside from the shock, I needed to do some re-arranging of desk, cables, etc. I hope all is well now. –lambert

President Biden gave a speech on December 2 at the National Institutes of Health — Walensky’s nose must be out of joint — on his “Winter Plan” for Covid. The speech (transcript) seems already to have sunk beneath the waves of Omicron coverage, but I thought I’d pull on my yellow waders again and go through it. Get ready!

I used the word “faltering” in the headline, in three senses. First, as policy: The Adminstration seems to have, as it were, “lost a step” in dealing with Covid; we have a policy of “Vax Only” and some relatively minor and not especially coherent changes. Second, politically: The Administration is simply not doing well in the polls. Third, literally, in Biden’s speech patterns. Here is the Mayo Clinic’s definition of stutter:

Stuttering is common among young children as a normal part of learning to speak. Young children may stutter when their speech and language abilities aren’t developed enough to keep up with what they want to say. Most children outgrow this developmental stuttering.

There are clearly places in the speech where Biden is stuttering; I have not marked them. But there are also places where Biden has clearly lost his train of thought; I have highlighted the false starts and the flubs in yellow, thus.

The speech is 27 minutes long; I have helpfully numbered each of the very short paragraphs, and annotated them.

The Speech

(1) THE PRESIDENT: Please, if there’s any audience — if there’s any audience in the world I should be standing for, it’s you — not you standing for me. But thank you very much.

This is Biden’s “plain style”; “Scranton Joe.” Personally, I think it’s effective.

(2) Good afternoon.

(3) You know, in February, I came out here to the National Institutes of Health –- NIH –- and to our Vaccine Research Center to thank all of you — the world-class doctors, scientists, researchers — for the incredible work you’ve done during the pandemic and developing the vaccines, saving lives, giving us hope, also — also continuing to give me advice on developments as they occur.

(4) I’ve seen more — (laughs) — of Dr. Fauci than my wife. We kid each other, but — (laughter) — they look — who’s President? Fauci. (Laughter.)[1]

[1] Biden’s joke played well at NIH, but was not universally well-received. And if Fauci really is that close to Biden, it reminds me of how close torture-advocate and éminence grise Jphn Brennan was to Obama.

(5) But all kidding aside, I sincerely mean it.

(6) Today, I’m back to announce our action plan to battle COVID-19 this winter — not that any of it is a surprise to any of you because it’s the combined advice from all of you that we developed this plan. And it doesn’t include shutdowns or lockdowns[1] but widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing and a lot more.

Which have always been half-hearted in any case, given that for them to really work, we’d need to pay people to stay home, which has never been on the table.

(7) There are five key actions that I want to see us take this winter.

(8) First of all — first is expanding the nationwide booster campaign with more outreach, more appointments, more hours, more times and sites to walk in, providing boosters shots for up to 110 [100] million Americans who are eligible for boosters.

Boosters might make sense for Delta. It’s not clear at all it makes sense for Omicron. From International Journal of Infectious Diseases, December 1::

It remains to be proven that existing COVID-19 vaccines might be effective at preventing serious disease due to VOC Omicron.

From CDC, December 2:

Omicron has many concerning spike protein substitutions, some of which are known from other variants to be associated with reduced susceptibility to available monoclonal antibody therapeutics or reduced neutralization by convalescent and vaccinee sera. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control also classified this variant as a VOC due to concerns ‘regarding immune escape and potentially increased transmissibility compared to the Delta variant.’

From New York Magazine, interivewBaylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Peter Hotez, December 4:

[HOTEZ] It’s going to be very complicated if we have to introduce Omicron-specific boosters. My strong hope is that we won’t have to go there, because it will get very messy very quickly.

What about it will be messy?

Actually demonstrating that it works, scaling up the distribution, the same vaccine-equity issues all over again, the public-health messaging, which has already been so complicated to begin with, and all of the anti-vaccine aggression. It’s doable, but if we have to go there, it’s going to be a slog at the scientific level, the public-health level, and policy level.

I feel like the Biden Administration is flying on a wing and a prayer with boosters for Omicron, and early indications are that Omicron will outcompete Delta, and that quickly.

(9) And I want to note, parenthetically, I was talking to one of my folks who does polling and national strategy. And he said there is some evidence in one poll — I won’t mention it because I’m not positive of the number[1] — I was told this as I was leaving the White House — that there is an expectation that 30 percent of the non-vaxers that are “no circumstances would I get a vaccination” — because of the new variant — are now saying, “I’m going to get a vaccination.” So, we hope that’s true. I hope that’s true.

[1] I’m not sure which poll Biden is referring to. Morning Consult tracks vax and has this nugget: “Since Morning Consult began tracking in mid-March, the share of total vaccine skeptics (uncertain plus unwilling) has dropped from 39% to 27% of the adult population.” So not entirely far-fetched.

(10) But the second point is that — launching new family vaccination clinics to make it easier for children, parents, and whole families to get vaccinated in one place, and new policies to keep our children in school instead of quarantining them at home. I’ll talk about the detail of each of these in a moment[1].

[1] As I said above, I find this structure super-confusing.

(11) The third piece of this is making free at-home tests more available than ever before and having them covered by your private insurance plans[1], available in thousands of locations, and available at community health centers and other sites for the uninsured who don’t have insurance.

[1] This part of the Biden’s “Winter Plan” has met with justified derision. The cost of processing the coverage will probably be more than the cost of the test, and that’s just talking about the individual. The rule will only be finalized by January 15, 2022. And who wants to deal with the insurance industry any more than absolutely necessary?

As many, many people quickly noted, this is an almost unbelievably bad strategy to promote free Covid testing. Buy a test, swab your nose, test the swab, wait 15 minutes for the result—and then submit a claim for the purchase price of the test to your health insurance company, to eventually be reimbursed, unless it’s denied, in which case you will have to submit an appeal.

No one wants to do this. Some people can’t afford to pay $25 up front for a two-test kit—$100 a month if you’re testing a family of four biweekly. And people who can cover the cost still don’t want to deal with their health insurers. People hate dealing with their health insurance companies!

Contrast the United States to a country with a functioning government: “China has ordered areas with populations of more than 5 million to be fully tested for Covid-19 within three days, while those with less than 5 million residents have two days to do the same.”

(12) Four, increasing our “Surge Response Teams” that our — our doctors, our nurses — I know the people in this audience know incredibly well about what a surge team[1] is but — medical staff into communities with rising cases and overburdened hospitals and — short on personnel.

[1] This seems uncontroversial. Florida and California have implemented surge teams. (Here is an explainer.) Other states have appealed to the Federal Government. (There is some discussion that Biden took the idea from Florida’s Desantis, but so far as I can tell this is just partisan sniping. And in any case, so what?

(13) And by the way, they make a gigantic difference. The governors — Republican governors[1] as well as Democratic governors contact me when I go into their states, talk about “thank you for these surge teams” because it really makes a difference in some — some communities are hit so much harder than others. They just — you know, they — they just can’t make it without what we’re going to — I’ll speak to this in more detail in a second.

[1] Correct. Missouri, for example.

(14) The fifth thing we’re doing — we’re going to accelerate our efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world[1] and strengthening — strengthen the international travel rules for people[2] coming to the United States[3].

[1] Nope. In These Times:

At an informal meeting of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council, the body that determines global intellectual property rules, the United States declined to take robust action to approve an intellectual property waiver, and merely referred back to the remarks that President Biden made on November 26. While the Biden administration has publicly declared support for an intellectual property waiver of some kind, it has not specified whether it supports the specific proposal put forward by South Africa and India in October 2020, nor clarified what changes it would like to see. The effect, global health activists charge, has been a slowing down of negotiations, in a context where any delay means more lives lost. Instead, these activists say the United States could be using its power at the WTO to pressure its allies to stop blocking discussions, and call a General Council meeting to pass a waiver.

Global health activists say the Biden administration’s inaction on November 29 shows there is a gap between what the White House is saying on the political level, and what it’s actually doing on the ground.

[2] Weak. WaPo describes the actions not taken:

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

Even self-quarantine for seven days is weak. Other countries have quarantine hotels and require two weeks (my preference).

[3] Why not domestic travel?

(15) I plan to announce — my plan that I’m announcing today pulls no punches[1] in the fight against COVID-19. And it’s a plan that I think should unite us.

[1] Biden’s claim is so absurd as to be surreal. The “Winter Plan” is a Vax-Only plan with some additional minor fixed. It in no sense a layered defense strategy. Ventilation is not mentioned. Masking is not mentioned. Social distancing is not mentioned. (And, continuing the Administration’s practice, those who faithfully protected themselves and others with these practice get no pats on the back, while those who resisted them are pandered to.

(16) I know COVID-19 has been very divisive in this country. It’s become a political issue[1], which is a sad, sad commentary. It shouldn’t be, but it has been.

[1] Here’s the political issue nobody mentions. From the Times: “It turns out that the real vaccination divide is class.” Worth reading in full.

(17) Now as we move into the winter and face the challenge of this new variant, this is a moment we can put this divisiveness behind us, I hope[1].

“He has to go out because people expect to hear from the president at times like this,” said David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “He is working with what he has. He has been trying to use this as a moment to regenerate a sense of urgency on vaccinations. We’ll see how that goes.”

Axelrod: Let me know how that works out. Grim.

(18) This is a moment we can do what we haven’t been able to do enough of through this whole pandemic: get the nation to come together, unite the nation in a common purpose to fight this virus, to protect one another, to protect our economic recovery, and to think of it in terms of literally a patriotic responsibility rather than a — somehow you’re denying people their basic rights[1].

[1] It’s not enough to point at your opponent. You’ve got to knock them out!

(19) The plan I’m announcing today is a plan our scientists and COVID teams[1] have recommended.

[1] Not sure who these mysterious teams are; run by Jeffery Zeints?

(20) And while my existing federal vaccination requirements are being reviewed by the courts, this plan does not expand or add to those mandates — a plan that all Americans, hopefully[1], can rally around.

[1] Once again. This is sad.

(21) And it should be — and should get bipartisan support, in my humble opinion. And it should unite us, not continue to separate us[1].

[1] In other words, this is a lowest common denominator plan?

(22) Parenthetically, you all know that there are literally — as it relates to whether or not we’re going to pay the federal debt, whether we’re going to in fact have a continued resolution, et cetera — some of my friends[1] on the other team[2] are arguing that if I don’t commit that there will never be any more mandates, they’re going to let us default.

[1] This isn’t the Senate any more!

[2] There are only two?

(23) In the neighborhood I came from in Claymont, they’d look at me and say, “Go figure. Go figure.”

(24) But before I explain each new action in more detail, I want to — and I’m not going to embarrass you, Doc — but I want to thank[1] Francis Collins.

[1] Scranton Joe again. Biden certainly must have shored up his support in the NIH building; a win, although a minor one.

(25) You know, you’ve done an incredible job, Doc, here at NIH — one of the most important scientists of our time, in my view.

(26) No, I’m not being solicitous. I think I’m not exaggerating a bit.

[1] Biden tends to use this word (here, here) as if it meant “sycophantic.”

(27) After I was elected President, Dr. Collins was one of the first calls — I think you were the second call I made — to ask you if you’d stay on — the second call I made.

(28) It’s because when I was Vice President I got to know Dr. Collins really well when I was given the opportunity to manage the Cancer Moonshot[1] initiative.

(29) And Dr. Collins is an incredible resource for our nation.

(30) And I’m grateful — and I mean this sincerely — I’m grateful for everything he’s done in this pan- — for this pandemic and advancing all kinds of medical breakthroughs, including mapping the human genome.

(31) He recently announced he is going to step down as director of NIH this month after a truly consequential tenure.

(32) But the good news really is Dr. Collins is going to return to the lab — the National Human — (laughs) — Genome Research Institute. And we look forward to his unmatched ability to unlock possibilities that are within our reach[1].

[1] “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” —Robert Browning

(33) And, Doc, the bad news for you is you ain’t getting rid of me, man[1]. I’m going to keep calling you all the time because there’s a lot of other things we can do — you can do and help me to get done. You just tell me — point me in the direction and I’ll follow.

[1] Scranton Hoe.

(34) I just received a briefing from Dr. Collins and Fauci and Dr. Lawrence Tabak, as well as Dr. Julie Ledgerwood, and I appreciate it very much. My only regret was it was a short meeting[1] so I was — because I was — come and speak. I think we would all benefit more if had made my speech short and spent more time with these docs.

[1] Staff protecting him?

[2] Scranton Joe.

(35) But, you know, as they — they study the Omicron variant just — that we have just two cases[1] reported here in the United States.

[1] It’s a pandemic. Cases can multiply geometrically.

(36) But, as I explained on Monday, this new variant is cause for concern but not panic[1].

[1] I am in accord with Biden on this, at least; see my comment on panic vs. fear.

(37) We know there’d be ca- — we knew there’d be cases of this — of Omicron here in the United States, and it’s here. But we have the best tools — the best vaccines in the world and the best medicine and the best scientists in the world[1].

[1] It would be helpful if we had a functioning government instead of a sclerotic shell.

(38) We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion, just like we beat back[1] COVID-19 in the spring and more powerful variant — Delta variant in the summer and fall.

[1] Did not “beat,” note well.

[2] This is delusional. See the charts on case count, hospitalization, and deaths in today’s Water Cooler. In no sense whatever has Delta been beaten back.

(39) As a result, we enter this winter from a position of strength compared to where America was last winter[1].

[1] True, but pointless. Are we in a position of strength with regard to the virus?

(40) Last Christmas, fewer than 1 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated. This Christmas, that number will be 77 — 72 percent, including more than 86 percent of seniors — the most vulnerable population[1[.

[1] It would have been helpful, from a public relations standpoint, if the vaccines had not been promoted as sterlizing.

(41) Last Christmas, our children were at risk without a COVID-19 vaccine. This Christmas, we have safe, effective vaccines[1] for children age five and older, with 20 million children and counting now vaccinated.

[1]. Biden comes near to practicing medicine without a license here, and he should stop. The question any parent would ask: “What are the risks for my child?”

(42) [This paragraph intentionally left blank, due to a formatting error in the White House transcript.]

(43) Last year, a majority of our schools were closed Christmastime in that area. Now over 99 percent of our schools are open[1].

[1] I’m not sure where Biden gets that number. See “School closings tracker: Closures are spreading throughout northern U.S.,” District Administration.

(44) But I’ve pledged to always be straight and give it to you straight from the shoulder as President of the United States and tell the American people exactly where we are.

(45) So, here — here it is: Experts say that COVID-19 cases will continue to rise in the weeks ahead in this winter, so we need to be ready[1].

[1[ Good.

(46) You can read the whole plan we’re talking about here at WhiteHouse.gov. Go to WhiteHouse.gov and it’s all laid out in detail.

[1] “Check the website” worked for Obama in 2008, but I think this gambit is played out.

(47) For now, here are the five key points I want to expand on slightly.[1]

[1] As noted, this is a confusing structure.

(48) We’re expanding our national booster campaign[1] to provide booster shots to all eligible adults[2].

[1] Perhaps the Administration feels this is one of the few cards they have left? Politico:

Administration officials and others close to the Covid response concede there’s little in Biden’s new plan that’s likely to drive up the vaccination rate among those yet to get their first shots.

While they do believe that fear of Omicron will convince people to get immunized, the White House in recent days has shifted much of its attention in recent days to shoring up the ranks of the already vaccinated. Though Biden health officials don’t yet know how well the current vaccines protect against Omicron, they’ve concluded that boosters provide the fullest protection — a belief that’s become the driving force behind new campaigns to get all vaccinated adults their booster shots.

[2] Not clear that this will help with Omicron. STAT:

here’s debate, however, within the public health community over whether focusing on boosters is the best way to combat the Omicron variant. Two former senior Food and Drug Administration officials and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel recently urged the Biden administration not to focus on boosting all Americans, especially until more is known about whether existing vaccines will be effective in preventing infection with the Omicron variant.

(49) Our docs and the scientists believe that people who get a booster shot are more protected than ever[1] from COVID-19.

[1] “more protected than ever” is meaningless taken literallly, and dubious otherwise; see notes at (8).

(50) I was just told, which — a question I got to ask — I’ve been meaning to ask for a long time — whether or not not just it increases the — the resistance to the variant that is being dealt with, but it also is — it is stronger. It not only just raises the total, but it’s a stronger — makes things more powerful, in terms of resisting.

[1] Again, see the notes at (8). Interestingly, Biden breaks into a stutter when he reaches the critical question.

(51) And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC; the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA; and our top public [health] officials recommend all adults — all adults get a booster shot when it’s time[1].

[1] This does not actually answer Biden’s question.

(52) But here’s the deal: More than about 100 million are eligible for boosters but haven’t gotten the booster shot yet.

(53) Folks, if you’re over the age of 18 and you got vaccinated before June the 2nd, six months has gone by. Go get your booster now. Go get it now[1].

[1] Vax vax vax.

(54) Booster shots continue to be free[1]. We’ve already made available 80,000 locations coast-to-coast in the United States of America — 80,000 locations to get the booster.

[1] One of the trust issues the vaccine hesitant have is that they simply don’t believe this, having been ripped off by the health care system so badly,

(55) And if you want to know exactly where to go, text your ZIP Code to 438829[1] to find where you can get your booster shot now — now.

[1] Good!

(56) And starting today, we’re making it easier than ever to get a booster shot.

(57) I’m calling on[1] pharmacies — and they’ve been cooperative — big and small to offer more appointments, more walk-in hours — including on weeknights and weekends — so you can get vaccinated at a time that works best for you and your family.

[1] So this is purely voluntary public-private partnership?

(58) Pharmacies will send millions of texts and emails to remind their customers to return for their booster shots because they know who got they got the booster at CVC [CVS] you got to — they’re now — they’ve agreed they’re going to send texts to that particular person when their time is up, when they’ve met the — if it’s Pfizer or Moderna, six months; if it’s J&J, two months.

(59) And to — you know, to reach out seniors, we’re also collaborating[1] with the American Association of Retired Persons — AARP –- who will be reaching out to their 38 million members. They’re going to make an aggressive effort.

[1] Another voluntary public-private partnership.

(60) They’re going to be hosting virtual townhalls to answer questions and even arrange rides for seniors to get their booster shots. And so that will all be coming.

(61) My administration also contacted the 64 [63] mil- — will contact the 64 [63] million people on Medicare to remind them to get their booster shots. We have the ability to do that from the federal level.

(62) And just like I did to make it easier for folks to get their first and second shots, I’m providing paid off time for federal employee[1] who goes to get their booster if they’re — the only time they get can it — the booster — where they are, if it’s at such and such a day in the middle of the day, they can go. All they have to do is demonstrate that’s where they went — or they took their son, daughter, husband, wife, mom, dad — they get paid. They don’t get docked their pay.

[1] Not paid time off for the shot for everyone, and most certainly not paid time-off if you have side effects.

(63) And I’m asking[1] other employers in the private sector to do the same thing.

[1] Another voluntary public-private partnership.

(64) No one should have to choose between a paycheck and getting an additional protection for a booster shot[1].

[1] Very true. If only that’s where we were.

(65) Now, I want to reiterate: Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins believe if you’re worried about the Omicron variant, the best thing to do is to get fully vaccinated and then get your booster shot when you’re — when you’re eligible[1].

[1] I suppose a reason to do this is that one might become infected by both Delta and Omicron. Meanwhile, both the CDC and the Journal of Infectious Diseases both say the effectiveness of current vaccines against Omicron is not known. So I need more than an argument from authority, here, especially when one of the authorities is Fauci.

(66) (Coughs.)[1] Excuse me.

[1] Just a cold.

(67) We don’t yet believe — (coughs) — excuse me — that additional measures will be needed. But so that we are prepared if needed, my team is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for other vaccines or boosters[1].

[1] Therefore, despite what Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins “believe,” we don’t know?

(68) And I’ll also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available without cutting corners on — for safety to get such vaccines renewed — reviewed and renewed — reviewed and approved if they’re needed.

(69) Second, we’re expanding our efforts to vaccinate children ages five and up. For any parent worried about Omicron variant or the Delta variant, get your child vaccinated at one of 35,000 locations in the country, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, children’s hospitals, and 9,000 pop-up clinics at schools.

(70) If you’re wondering where to go, again, visit Vaccines.com [Vaccines.gov].

(71) And today, I’m announcing that we’re going to launch hundreds of new family vaccination clinics across the country. These sites are going to offer vaccinations for the whole family — one stop. One stop. Children can get vaccinated. Parents can get vaccinated, get their second — first or second shots or their booster shots.

(72) Family vaccination clinics will be held in community health centers and other trusted locations. Some will be mobile to reach further into hard-to-reach communities. If it’s booster shots for adults, vaccinations for kids — all at the same place at the same time.

(73) Now, you know, when we first announced, I said the logistical problem — it wasn’t just that we didn’t have enough vaccines when we got into office. But once we got the vaccine, the logistical effort to get all communities and all areas vaccinated was a gigantic logistical undertaking that would make any military proud of being able to do it. But because of the incredible talent, including our military, we got that done. And we can do the same thing now as we continue to expand.

(74) We know parents of children under the age of five are wondering when the vaccine will be available for their little ones. That’s the question I most get often asked now at functions.

(75) We had a function celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas and various things at the White House. The parents coming up to me, they’re saying, “I have a three-year-old. Is there going to be a time that that can — am I going to be okay? Is she going to be okay — or he going to be okay?”

[1] While (see above) I have problems with Biden’s messaging, others feel differently:

“Biden outlined conversations that he had with constituents asking him about the availability of vaccination for children under 5 years of age. Rather than provide a timeline, or discuss even what was being done, he admitted he did not know when that decision would be made and that he was relying on experts and science to find the answer. Some might have felt this admission was a weak point for a leader in crisis. However, I would argue that it not only made him more credible (he is not a scientist or a doctor) but it also increased our trust in his message.”

(76) And let me say this: I strongly support the independent scientific review of vaccine usage for children under five. We can’t tak- — take shortcuts with that scientific work.

(77) But I’ll do everything in my power to support the FDA to do this safely and quickly as possible when we get to that — to that point.

(78) Vaccinating our children is also critical to keeping our schools open. But while over 99 percent of schools are open now[1], we need to make sure we keep that throughout the winter — this winter[2].

[1] See notes to (43).

[2] Still, amazingly, not a word on ventilation.

When parents are doing this:

(79) The CDC is now reviewing pioneering approaches like — it’s going to be called “test to stay”[1] — “test to stay” policies, which would allow students to stay in the classroom and be tested frequently when a positive case in that classroom popped up and it wasn’t them. Up to now you get — go home and you quarantine. But rather than being sent home and quarantining, they’d be able to stay because a test would be available and regularly.

[1] Presumably, then, we can manufacture or purchase the tests? And parents won’t have to save their receipts to get reimbursed by insurance companies?

(80) The CDC will be releasing the latest science and other findings in the coming weeks so that other schools can learn from — from the impediment — excuse me — if there’s any impediments in this practice, they can learn to implement exactly what the best way to do this is. This is a process[1].

[1] Indeed.

(81) We want our children in school, and we are going to take new steps to make sure they stay — it stays that way.

(82) But again, the best step is to vaccinate your children. Get them vaccinated[1].

[1] Vax vax vax.

(83) The third, this winter we are going to make free at-home tests[1] more available to Americans than ever before.

[1] There doesn’t seem to be a unified approach to testing; it’s all done by venue. And for all these tests, will the CDC get the results so we have good data?

(84) To better detect and control the Delta variant, I made testing more available, affordable, and convenient. I used the Defense Production Act[1] to increase production of rapid tests, including at-home tests.

[1] More like this please. How about masks?

(85) When I came into office, none of these tests were on the market. Thanks to our actions and the work of all of you, we now have at least eight at-home testing options and prices for those tests are coming down[1]. But it still isn’t good enough, in my view.

[1] Perhaps we could also fast track FDA approvals of tests approved by the EU?

(86) That’s why I am announcing that health insurers[1] must cover the cost of at-home testing. So that if you’re one of the 150 million Americans with private health insurance, next month your plan will cover at-home tests.

[1] See notes to (11).

(87) Private insurers already cover the expensive PCR test and — that you get at a doctor’s office. And now they will cover at-home tests as well[1].

[1] See notes to (11).

(88) Now, for those not covered by private insurance, we’re going to make available free tests at thousands of convenient locations — locations for folks to pick them up and take a test kit home[1].

[1] Good. But why not just make free tests available for everybody and cut insurance companies out entirely? And also, what will be done with the test data?

(89) The bottom line: This winter, you’ll be able to test for free[1] in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind.

[1] Not with insurance reimbursement. That’s a tax on time, and often a big one.

(90) This is on top of the 20,000 sites already around the country, like pharmacies, where you can go in and get tested for free. We have to keep this going.

(91) Fourth, we’re going to continue to help communities that experience rising cases this winter and improve the care — the care for those who get COVID-19.

(92) Since this summer, we have worked with Republican and Democratic governors — as many Republican governors as Democratic governors — to deploy what we call “surge response teams.”[1]

[1] See notes to (12).

(93) These teams work. They provide needed staff for staff overruns at — badly needed staff where over-run hospitals are handling more patients than they can — they can handle for their emergency rooms and intensive care units who don’t have the personnel available. They help provide lifesaving treatments in communities in need, like monoclonal antibody treatments.

[1] See notes to (12).

(94) We have over 20 teams deployed now.

(95) Today, I’m announcing that we’re going to triple that — more than double. We’re going to get to 60 teams ready to deploy to states that experience a surge in cases over the course of this winter.

[1] I suppose this is one solution to an over-optimized health care system; the surge teams provide the needed slack.

(96) I was just with the governor in Minnesota, who is raving[1] about the positive impact it’s had on his state. But there’s other states the same — in the same circumstance.

[1] Scranton Joe!

(97) Additionally, were increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists. Okay?[1]

[1] Millions of Joe Rogan listeners change the channel. More seriously, “this is a moment we can put this divisiveness behind us” was important at (17). Is it no longer important at (97)?

(98) For example, monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent[1] and –for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease.

[1] Practicing medicine without a license again. Oversimplified, not sourced, etc.

(99) We’ve already distributed over 3 million courses of these treatments to save lives and reduce the strain on hospitals.

(100) And we have — we’re — we have promising new arrival pill — excuse me, antiviral pills on the horizon that could help prevent hospitalizations and death of people infected by COVID-19[1].

[1] The whole speech is a maddening mixture of precision and imprecision. “up to 70 percent” one moment, vague gestures at unnamed pills the next.

(101) We’ve secured enough supply of these pills already. And early indications are that these treatments[1] will remain effective in the face of Omicron.

[1] As above.

(102) We don’t know that for sure yet, but that’s the hope and expectation[1].

[1] This, at least, is honest. Why not lead with it?

(103) And like with the distribution of the vaccines, we will ensure that these medicines will be available to the hardest-hit communities in America as well[1].

[1] There’s no “like” about it, at least in terms of outcomes. See notes at (16).

(104) Fifth and finally, as we’ve seen with COVID-19 and the Delta variant and now with the Omicron variant, all that emerged elsewhere; it all came from somewhere else. And ultimately, beat this pan- — we — to beat this pandemic, we need to go to where it came and the rest of the world[1].

[1] See notes at (14).

(105) We also need to vaccinate[1] the rest of the world. America has, in my view — continues to lead in that effort.

[1] No, you need to enable the rest of the world to manufacture vaccines. See notes at (14).

(106) We have shipped, for free, more vaccines around the world than all other countries in the world combined — every other country combined. Over 280 million vaccines far to 110 countries, including to South Africa, where we’ve delivered all the doses they requested.

(107) Now, today I am announcing that we’ll accelerate the delivery of more vaccines to countries that need it, pledging to deliver 200 million dose — more doses within the next 100 days — on our way to delivering more than 1,200,000,000 doses for the rest of the world.

(108) Let me be clear: Not a single vaccine dose America ever sends to the rest of the world will ever come at the expense of any American. I’ll always make sure that our people are protected first. But vaccinating the world is not just a moral tool — a moral obligation that we have, in my view; it’s how we protect Americans, as we’re seeing with this new variant.

(109) America is doing our part, and we’ll do more. But this is a global pandemic, and everyone needs to fight it together.

(110) And that includes countries we’re helping that aren’t particularly friendly toward us. Their populations are in trouble[1].

[1] A good distinction.

(111) To their credit, the scientific community, particularly in South Africa, quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant.

(112) This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded[1] because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats. And that’s what we did.

[1] Well said.

(113) In the very day the World Health Organization identified the new variant, I took an immediate step to restrict travel from the countries in South — in Southern Africa[1].

[1] Partial travel restrictions are useless. IMNSHO, if they’re not universal, they’re useless. Trump banned travel from China, but not Italy. The results were not good.

(114) But while we know that travel restrictions can slow the spread of Omicron, they cannot prevent it. But it does give us a little more time to take more precautions at home to prepare[1].

[1] Yes, all the elements of a layered strategy take time, including public relations. A year we’ve squandered!

(115) A month ago, we announced requirements that foreign travelers must be vaccinated if entering the United States.

(116) This week, I announced an additional action to strengthen international travel rules to give us more time to stop the spread and study a new variant.

(117) It used to be that an international travel flying to the United State- — traveler flying to the United States had to test negatively three days before their departure from the other — that country.

(118) Well, I’m announcing today that all inbound international travelers must test within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality.

[1] No quarantine? Really?

(119) This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the Omicron variant.

(120) And we are extending the requirement, both internationally and domestically, to wear masks for travel on aircraft, trains, and public transportation through the winter months.

[1] Good. Hopefully they’re not counterfeit. Jawbone Amazon while you’re at it.

(121) I’ll close with this. Again, the actions I’m announcing are ones that all Americans can rally behind and should unite us in the fight against COVID-19.

(122) And they come from a position of strength. We are better positioned than we were a year ago to fight COVID-19.

(123) Since day one of my administration, we’ve been doing everything we can to beat this virus[1]. And that’s what we have to keep doing. That’s how we keep our country and our businesses and our schools open.

[1] Absolutely untrue; we have no layered defense. In fact, the Administration is systematically suppressing aerosol tranmission and ventilation:

(124) And that’s how, even with a pandemic, we’ve generated record job creation[1] — 5.6 million new jobs since January 20th — more than any President in American history.

[1] Oh. So, 2024 is why no lockdowns.

(125) We’re on the track to the fastest economic growth in four decades — in four decades[1].

[1] Ditto

(126) We have moved forward in the face of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. And we’ll move forward in the face of Omicron variant as well. And we’ll do it by keeping the faith and doing it together as the United States of America.

(126) We have moved forward in the face of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. And we’ll move forward in the face of Omicron variant as well. And we’ll do it by keeping the faith and doing it together as the United States of America.

Conclusion

I don’t feel good after writing this post; I feel like I’m kicking a frail old man whose administration is already exhausted. NPR characterized the speech as follows:

There was no single blockbuster announcement and no major new mandate or target for rapidly increasing the number of vaccinated Americans. Instead, Biden’s plan to fight the coronavirus this winter is a battle of increments: efforts to get booster shots into the arms of all adults and especially seniors, setting up family vaccine clinics, offering more free and lower-cost at-home testing options, stockpiling antiviral pills and readying strike teams to help states with outbreaks.

From the Hill:

Biden’s plan largely calls for a doubling down on getting the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots for Americans who are eligible. He said the nationwide booster campaign would be expanded to incorporate more walk-in appointments, longer hours and weekends.

Politico:

The reality, however, is that most of the steps the administration plans to take are continuations or modest expansions of existing initiatives, and some experts doubt they will do much to change the pandemic’s current trajectory.

Not only are these “increments” and “modest steps” not hard, they could and should have been put into operation long ago (except perhaps for the antivirals, if they were not ready). And as far as doubling down on “Biden Roulette” with a Vax Only strategy for Delta and Omicron: Suppose we luck out. What happens when the next respiratory virus-driven virus comes along, and we have no infrastructure for non-pharamaceutical intervention worthy of the name?





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