US President Biden toils to put pandemic behind him

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US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting. File photo

President Joe Biden’s administration has been working for months to prepare people to rethink their personal risk calculations as the nation gets used to the idea of living with an endemic COVID-19.

But that measured approach disappeared abruptly when a federal judge on Monday threw out the federal requirement to mask up when using mass transit. The ruling added to the urgency of the messaging challenge as the administration tries to move past the virus in the lead-up to midterm elections.


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After the government last month eased indoor mask-wearing guidelines for the vast majority of Americans — even in schools — masking on planes was one of the last redoubts of the national COVID-19 restrictions. Now, as the policy falls, the administration turns to accelerating its efforts to provide the best advice for millions making their own personal safety decisions in the still-dangerous pandemic.

It’s both a public health imperative and an important shift in emphasis for Biden’s political future.

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The shift toward less formal regulation was actually previewed in a 100-page plan released by the White House coronavirus response team in February. File photo

“There is an opportunity now, instead of saying this is a disappointing ruling, they could say this is a good time to have a conversation about how we move forward in this pandemic about risk calculation,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“With COVID-19, I think we’re at a point with immunity from prior infections, vaccines, home tests and treatments that we can start to manage this the way we manage other infectious diseases,” he said.

Biden himself went all-in on flexibility on Tuesday when asked if Americans should mask up on planes.

“That’s up to them,” Biden declared during a visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But his own White House nonetheless continues to require face coverings for those traveling with him on Air Force One, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The shift toward less formal regulation was actually previewed in a 100-page plan released by the White House coronavirus response team in February. Back then, administration officials had hoped that children under 5 would be eligible for vaccination by now — a move that would have eased the concern of millions of parents and provided the umbrella of protection to nearly everyone in the US who wanted it.

Associated Press

 

 

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