Latest Biden Covid Speech Sinks Without a Trace

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The speech is 12 minutes long; I have helpfully numbered each of the very short paragraphs, and annotated them. 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.

If I occasionally betray a little irritation, please forgive me. It’s been a long pandemic. I have added some commentary at the end.

(1) But before we begin, I want to provide an update on our fight against COVID-19 and announce new steps[1].

(2) First, the update. I know we’re[1] all frustrated[2] as we enter this new year. The Omicron variant is causing[3] millions of cases and record hospitalizations.

(3) I’ve been — I’ve been saying that, as we remain in this pandemic, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated[1]. And I mean by this[2]: Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different.

(4) If vaccinated people test positive, they overwhelmingly have either no symptoms at all or they have mild symptoms.

(5) And if they’re — if you’re unvaccinated — if they test positive — there are — you are 17 times more likely[1] to get hospitalized.

(6) As a result, they’re crowding[1] our hospitals, leaving little room for anyone else who might have a heart attack or an injury in an automobile accident or any injury at all.

(8) But here’s the deal: Because we’ve fully vaccinated nearly 210 million Americans, the majority[1] of the country is safe from severe COVID-19 consequences.

(9) That’s why, even as the number of cases among the vaccinated Americans go up, deaths are down dramatically[1] from last winter.

(10) For example, before its vaccination requirement, the United States — excuse me — United Airlines was averaging one employee dying a week from COVID-19. After implementing its requirement, it has led to 99 percent of its employees being vaccinated. United had 3,600 employees test positive, but zero hospitalizations, zero deaths in over 8 weeks.

(11) But as long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths.

(12) So, the single most important thing to determine your[1] outcome in this pandemic is getting vaccinated[2]. If you’re not vaccinated, join[3] the nearly 210 million American people who are vaccinated.

(13) And if you are vaccinated, join the nearly 80 million Americans who have gotten the booster shot, with the strongest protection possible[1].

[1] “Possible” is doing a lot of work; Omicron came on so fast there’s been no time for RCTs or anything like that. This Imperial College modeling paper concludes: “Our analyses demonstrate the importance of delivering booster doses as part of the wider public health response to restore vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant.” But from the Abstract, for later: “In all scenarios it is likely that health systems will be stretched. It may be essential, therefore, to maintain and/or reintroduce NPIs to mitigate the worst impacts of the Omicron variant as it replaces the Delta variant.”

(14) Vaccines are safe, they’re free[1], and they’re widely available. So, do it today, please, for your sake, the sake of your kids, and the sake of the country[2].

[1] Only if you can afford time off from work to get them, and more time off if there are ill effects.

[2] Here Biden abandons decreased hospitalization and death justification so carefully developed in (3)-(6) and (10) (unless you identify “the country” with “hospitals”). Who gave this thing the final read-through?

(15) Now, I don’t like to, you know, outline the next steps we’re taking against — I’d like to outline the next steps we’re taking against Omi- — the Omicron variant.

(16) Vaccinations are obviously the most important thing we are doing, but they are not the only important thing[1].

[1] After a whole year, Biden shifts to a layered strategy. Kinda.

(17) First, masking. Masking. Masking is an important tool to control the spread of COVID-19. And when you’re indoors in public places, you should wear the mask. And you’re — there are a lot — you know, there are lots of different kinds of masks out there. And the Center for — the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — says that wearing a well-fitting mask of — any of them is certainly better than not wearing a mask, if it’s well-fitting — well-fit- — over your nose.[2],[3]

[1] Terrible guidance from CDC. They should be recommending the most protective mask, and then teaching people to wear them. Go on GMA, ffs. How hard is this?

[2]Yeah, sheesh, cover your nose, it drives me nuts. –lambert

[3] Clearly, Biden is not well-versed in these talking points; he’d been fluent before, and now he copme

(18) And — but it’s about one third — one third of Americans report they don’t wear a mask at all.[1]

[1] If one third don’t, two-thirds do. So how about giving the great majority of Americans a pat on the back for acting like they live in a society and are doing the right thing to protect themselves and their neighbors?

(19) As I’ve said in the last two years: Please wear a mask. If you’re in a — you know, I think it is part of your patriotic duty[1]. It’s not that comfortable. It’s a pain in the neck[1]. But I’ve taken every action I can as President to require people to wear masks in federal buildings and on airplanes and trains, because they’re inter- — they cross state lines.

[1] A good speechwriter would have expanded on this, and woven it together with not overloading hospitals.

[2] What a weak-ass, pissant sales job. Can’t Biden at least try to fake it? “It’s not that comfortable” sounds like it’s what he really believes.

(20) I’ve made sure that our doctors and nurses and first responders have the masks they need[1]. Never again are we going to have our nurses using homemade masks and garbage bags[2] over their clothing for hospitals because they don’t have the gowns.

[1] All N95s? Apparently not.

[2] Subtext: Unlike with the former guy.

(21) We’ve more than tripled our stockpile of the most protective, specialized N95 masks since coming into office. This is going to[1] make sure that there will be an ample supply of [for] healthcare workers and first responders.

[1] If this were done in 2021, it wouldn’t be “going to” be done in 2022.

(22) We have also helped make sure that high-quality masks are widely available, in ample supply, at affordable prices, sold online and in stores. But I know that for some Americans, a mask is not always affordable or convenient to get[1].

[1] The first sentence was purely aspirational, then?

(23) So, next week[1] we’ll announce — we’ll announce how we are making high-quality masks available to American people — the American people for free.

[1] Snould have been “next week” on Inauguration Day, 2021.

[1] I think that Psaki sneering at the idea of mailing out masks to every American for free was a turning point with the press; whatever else the press may be, they’re cosmopolitan, and they know the material reality is that other countries can do this.

(24) I — you know, I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks[1]. I get it[2]. But there is — they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of a highly transmittable Omicron variant.

[1] I’m happy and proud to wear the goddamned mask as long as need be. It’s not a big deal. Billions of Asians do it. Stop whinging. “I get” that you don’t like them. Suck it up and be a President ffs.

[2] Why, again, cater to the 33% — most of whom are not going to vote for you — and never give props to the 66%? “For those of you who have been doing your patriotic duty and masking up, I thank you. Your family thanks you. Your neighbors thank you. The nation thanks you.” There. How hard is this?

(25) So, please, please wear the[1] mask.

[1] “The.” How about “your”?

(26) Second: testing. We’re seeing real improvement in testing. When I got here, we were doing fewer than 2 million tests a day.

(27) Now — and it’s changed. None of these tests were at-home or rapid tests. This month, it’s estimated that we will hit approximately 15 million tests a day and we’ll have over 375 million at-home rapid tests in January alone. That’s a huge leap.

[1] Biden is correct there’s been a large increase. Of course, with the at-home and rapid tests we have no data, but then with the rest of our data so bad, maybe that doesn’t matter. (Better data collection is another thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day, 2021.

(28) We’ve taken a number of steps, including invoking the Defense Production Act as early as last February[1] to ramp up production.

[1] True.

(29) You know — and we’re on track. We’re on track to roll out a website next week[1] where you can order free tests shipped to your home[2].

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

[2] To launch this Wednesday. Let’s just hope it goes better than the ObamaCare launch.

(30) And, in addition to the 500 million — half a billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you — homes for free, today I’m directing my team to procure an additional half a billion — an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free[1].

[1] Maybe — hear me out — we could generalize this idea somehow.

(31) That will mean a billion tests in total to meet future demand. And we’ll continue to work with the retailers and online ru- — and online retailers to increase availability.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(32) And for those who want an immediate test, we continue to add FEMA testing sites so that there are more than — more free, in-person testing sites.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(33) For those of you with insurance, you can get reimbursed for eight tests a month[1].

[1] Why add the complexity? Do liberal Democrats like filling out forms?

(34) For those without insurance, we have over 20,000 free testing sites all around the country.[1]

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(35) You can find the nearest testing sites for you by Googling “COVID test near me.” Google “COVID test near me.”

[1] Oh, come on. I am sure this gentleman’s experience is not out of the ordinary:

Leaving aside the question of why Biden didn’t say this: “Type ‘COVID test near me’ into your favorite search engine,” so he wasn’t treating a ginormous crooked monopoly as if it were a benign public utility.

(36) And to help lead our federal testing program, I’ve talked — I’ve ta- — excuse me, I’ve tapped Dr. Tom In- — I hope I’m pronouncing Ings- — Ingles- — Inglesby.

(37) Correct? Is that right, Jeff?

(38) (Jeff Zients[1] makes a thumbs-up gesture.)

[1] I didn’t know lizards had thumbs. MR SUBLIMINAL Bad Lambert! Bad! Bad!

(39) And he is one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, and I’m grateful for his willingness to help tackle this challenge[1].

[1] Backgound on Inglesby. He’s the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and came up through biodefense and bioweaponry, a field I regard as murky.

(40) Third thing: Today, we’ll discuss our hospital response efforts.

(41) Just Thanks[1]- — just since — just since Thanksgiving, over 800[2] military and other federal emergency personnel have been deployed to 24 states, Tribes, and territories, including over 350 military doctors, nurses, and medics helping staff the hospitals who are in short supply.

[1] Not to the 66% of the population helping out with non-pharmaceutical interventions!

[2] That’s a large number?

(42) This is on top of the more than 14,000 National Guard members that are active — activated in 49 states[1].

[1] Again, one must question why there’s no slack in the system.

(43) These deployments, at my direction and thanks to the American Rescue Plan, are fully paid for by the federal government.

(44) We’ve shipped over 5.5 million pieces of protect- — of personal protective equipment — gloves, gowns, masks[1] — to protect frontline healthcare workers.

[1] What kind?

(45) We’re shipping more treatments of COVID-19, which includes antiviral pills, than at any point during this pandemic[1].

[1] Good, but “at any point” is doing a lot of work. And why not an Operation Warp Speed for treatments on Inauguration Day? The business model was there.

(46) In addition, I’ve directed FEMA to work with every state, territory, and the District of Columbia to make sure they have enough hospital bed capacity[1].

[1] One more thing that should have been initiated on Inauguration Day.

(47) Today, I’m announcing our next deployment of six additional federal medical teams, a total of more than 120[1] military medical personnel, to six hard-hit states: Michigan, [New Mexico], New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island.

[1] This is a large number?

(48) Now let me close with this: It’s been a long road, but what’s clear is that we get through this when everybody does their part[1]. No matter where you live, no matter your political party, we’ve got to fight this together[2].

[1] The beauty of the layered approach (“Swiss Cheese” model) is that everybody really could do their part, because there are so many parts to play. But Vax-only destroyed that.

[2] Naturally, no mention whatever of ventilation.

(49) Unfortunately, while our military is stepping up, as they always do, there are others sitting on the sidelines and, worse, standing in the way[1].

[1] I thought the blame cannons had fallen silent. How wrong I was!

(50) If you’ve haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it.

(51) Personal choice impacts us all — our hospitals, our country.[1]

[1] Biden is right. Why then, never thank or even mention the two-thirds of the country who made the right personal choice?

(52) I make a special appeal to social media companies and media outlets: Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that’s on your shows. It has to stop.

[1] I think social media is filling a vacuum left by the complete collapse of CDC’s ability to message or even perform science, and the larger collapse of the PMC’s desire or even ability to govern. And maybe start with CDC and WHO? Their misinformation on masking and aerosols cost many lives, presumably accidentally.

(53) COVID-19 is one of the most formidable enemies America has ever faced. We’ve got to work together, not against each other[1].

[1] One of the best examples of people literally working together is people volunteering to build Corsi boxes in the schools. But that would imply that ventilation is a concern, so Biden can’t go there. Oh well.

(54) We’re America. We can do this.

[1] Of course, if Biden had started all this on Inauguration Day, he could be saying “We did this.” Oh well.

(55) To the military medical teams on the ground: Thank you[1] for all and everything you’re doing.

[1] Again, no thanks at all to the 66% of the American people who did the right thing and masked up. Why can’t Biden say this? It’s bizarre.

(56) And I’ll stop here so we can get to — the briefing started. But thank you for taking the time.


Three comments at a high level:

First, the Administration remains without a theory of transmission. For whatever reason, Biden cannot or will not say “Covid is airbornel.” but nor can he say “Covid is spread by coughing and spitting” but nor can he fuzz over the issue with “Covid is spread by close contact” (note that close contact is not a method of transmission; there’s no mechanism). Hence Biden is reduced to making requests (“Please wear a mask”) without giving people an overarching framework to fit the request into. Here at NC we’re pretty active in working out transmission issues and figuring out strategies to deal with them; this is a function the administration should be performing, but is not, preferring exhortations and blaming.

Second, the Administration remains without a theory of politics. Biden proffers various justifications for getting vaccinated: Not to overload hospitals; to protect yourself; to perform your patriotic duty. These justifications are all very well, but again, they do not give people an over-arching framework (for example, civic republicanism). Rather, Biden’s justifications feel very much like “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks,” “run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes.” Very West Wing brain.

Third, Biden presented his “Winter Plan” on December 2 (yellow wader version here). There’s nothing in this speech, a mere 46 days later, that could not have been initiated in that speech (or, as I keep saying, on Inauguration day). Some plan!

In any case, the speech got virtually no coverage; tweet after tweet after tweet of this Daily Mail story is all that I saw, immediately following the speech:

As far as the politics of the speech go, here is a handy chart:

If for the sake of the argument we admit that today we’re seeing a peak — highlighted — there are 47 days from December 1, the date the first case of Omicron was reported. 47 days from today is March 5, dovetailing neatly with Biden’s (rawther delayed) State of the Union speech on March 1, where presumably he will declare victory. I have my doubts. The political class may be “done” with Covid, but I am not sure Covid is done with us.

1 “Freedom” is how a libertarian says “[family blog] you!”

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