Biden declares no federal solution to unrelenting waves of COVID-19
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jeremy-in-nc • 4 weeks ago • 11 comments
By: Jeff Mordock
President Biden on Monday delivered a cryptic warning to the nation’s governors when he said there is “no federal solution” to the COVID-19 outbreaks and called on the states to do more.
The message was in stark contrast to his campaign pledge to “crush the virus” with a federal response that he said eluded former President Donald Trump.
“There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level,” Mr. Biden said on a conference call with the governors about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Though Mr. Biden sought to assure the governors that the federal response would not hamper their efforts, his call for more help from states underscored the administrations’ failure to bring the pandemic under control.
Mr. Biden’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus include a vaccine mandate for federal workers and private businesses, a push for increased testing and mask requirements in federal buildings, airports, and public transportation.
And yet, since taking office, more than 400,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19, roughly the same number of deaths attributed to the virus in 2020.
Mr. Biden’s critics pounced on his concession that there is “no federal solution.”
“He’s trying to avoid blame for his incompetence. If he really believes this, he should rescind his unconstitutional federal [vaccination] mandates,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican.
The president’s call for the states to get more involved was in response to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, cautioning Mr. Biden not to step on state’s rights while fighting the pandemic.
“One word of concern or encouragement for your team is that as you look towards federal solutions that will help alleviate the challenge, make sure that we do not let federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions,” Mr. Hutchinson said.
The governors also pressed Mr. Biden on the shortage of coronavirus tests as the surge of the omicron variant has sent consumers racing to buy testing kits only to discover long lines and sold-out stores.
“We, as governors, are getting pressure to do more, and the need is great to do more in terms of the rapid test and the availability of it,” Mr. Hutchinson told the president.
Mr. Biden said that when he took office, no over-the-counter at-home coronavirus tests were available and now almost 200 million tests have hit the market. Still, he admitted that’s insufficient to satisfy demand as omicron cases rapidly increase.
“It’s clearly not enough,” Mr. Biden said. “If we had known, we would have gone harder quicker. … We have to do better.”
Monday’s call marked Mr. Biden’s first time joining the weekly call between his COVID-19 response team and the governors.
Speaking with reporters after the call, Mr. Biden denied a Vanity Fair report alleging that the administration rejected a plan to ramp up COVID-19 testing ahead of the holidays.
We didn’t reject it,” Mr. Biden said, without elaborating.
The magazine reported that it obtained a 10-page plan from testing experts calling for roughly 732 million tests per month ahead of the holidays. The plan was outlined to Biden officials on a Zoom call on Oct. 22, according to the report.
If adopted, the plan would likely have avoided the long lines and empty shelves at pharmacies across the country.
Administration officials told the experts — which included researchers from Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative and other organizations — that the plan was “dead.” Instead, the administration announced plans to move tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process, according to the magazine.
Officials also told the experts they couldn’t approve the plan, preferring to implement “smaller-scale plans,” it said.
The Biden administration last week used the Defense Production Act to get 200 million to 500 million COVID-19 tests to market free of charge to Americans.
The testing shortage has been a particularly stinging thorn in the administration’s side since Mr. Biden made the lack of COVID-19 test a chief criticism of Mr. Trump. He called it a “failure of planning, leadership and execution.”
Despite the latest bid to ramp up testing, the administration has not signed a contract to buy tests, and the website order will not be ready until January.
The administration has been mum about how many tests people can order and when they will be shipped once they are ordered.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week dismissed concerns about the lack of a contract. She said it is just a matter of time before it is finalized.
“We have no concern about the contract being finalized,” she said. “We’re just working to finalize the contracts. We just announced this two days ago. But there’s no — we don’t see any issue or any halt to getting that done and finalizing that.”
Mr. Biden said Monday that the government will continue to use the Defense Production Act — a relic from the Korean War that allows the government to prioritize contracts on items deemed necessary for national defense — to produce tests.
While Americans are waiting to order the tests, they’ve flocked to local pharmacies only to be met with long lines and empty shelves.
Consumers are buying so many in-home testing kits that some stores have imposed limits on how many can be purchased. Walgreens, for example, has limited tests to four per person.