President Joe Biden’s Nov. 29 press briefing on the U.S. response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 makes one wonder what was so different about the two approaches to dealing with the virus adopted by the current and previous occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.: Bans on travel to the United States from certain countries were necessary to buy time to prepare effective mitigation efforts, vaccines will be developed at lightning speed, and Americans shouldn’t panic.
This was essentially former President Donald Trump’s message to the nation in 2020 – and he was heavily criticized for each of those assertions – but Biden just echoed all of them. Did he provide the public with any new information about Omicron – or, as both he and Dr. Anthony Fauci referred to the new variant, “Omnicron”?
Growing numbers of countries are reporting cases of infection, including Canada. It is very important that the unvaccinated get their shots and that the vaccinated take booster shots. Everyone should be wearing masks indoors. Biden has no plans to mandate more lockdowns or shuttering of businesses, and the Omicron variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.” These were the salient points conveyed at the press briefing.
“[T]he best protection – and I know you’re tired of hearing me say this,” Biden told the gathered reporters, “the best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there – the ones we’ve been dealing with already – is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot.”
On the subject of vaccines, Biden devoted some time to emphasize the dubious claim that vaccinations and boosters are free. Apparently, Big Pharma has graciously provided these treatments to the American people and the world at no cost.
Trump was criticized – and perhaps rightly so – for rushing the development of COVID vaccines. A great many of his detractors, including Biden’s number two, Kamala Harris, were adamant at the time that the FDA was not to be trusted and that they would decline the coming vaccine. That was then, of course, and Biden gets a pass for the same haste, pledging to “accelerate” the development of any necessary new vaccine “with every available tool”:
“My team is already working with officials at Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed. And I will also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available, without cutting any corners for safety, to get such vaccines approved and on the market if needed.”
Biden wrapped up the short briefing by taking a couple of unchallenging questions from preselected reporters, as has become standard practice. Credit where credit is due; he appeared calm, relatively cogent, and he gave the impression that a new wave of COVID hysteria was both unwarranted and unhelpful. That aside, Biden’s appearance before the press, it seems, was more an exercise in being seen to be doing something rather than to provide new information.
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.