The Daily Beast Op-Ed: Nearly 2 Years and More Than 800K Deaths Later, Biden is Playing Catch Up With the Coronavirus

BP2C Executive Director Dr. Scott C. Ratzan, Lawrence O. Gostin and Kenneth H. Rabin wrote an Opinion in The Daily Beast on December 22, 2021 titled, “Nearly Two Years and More Than 800,000 Deaths Later, Biden is Playing Catch Up With the Coronavirus,” with a byline “Here are four things, past what he announced today, that the president could do right now to finally get America up to speed.” The full article is available here on the Daily Beast website and is copied below.

President Biden today warned the nation of a dark winter, fueled by the Omicron variant that is now dominant in America. He will expand testing sites, distribute free at-home tests, and deploy federal resources to overwhelmed hospitals.

The president staked his political reputation on stemming the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, roughly half of the 800,000 deaths have occurred on his watch. The U.S. is on track to exceed 1 million COVID-19 deaths, the world’s highest death toll.

How will a nation that is already demoralized, divided, and desensitized react to these latest fear messages? Just three weeks ago, on Dec. 2, Biden announced a nine-point plan, declaring that “this is the moment we can put the divisiveness behind us.” Yet, here we are again, with a couple more fixes and the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight.

The president faces huge headwinds. His earnestness is undercut by confused and ineffective messaging, including the vice president saying, implausibly, that the White House had no idea Omicron was coming; a widely admired chief science advisor who has been compromised by raw partisanship and over-exposure; and a CDC that seems to change guidance at every turn. Overall, an exhausted public is asking, Why trust the experts when the virus just keeps roaring back?

A long list of policy failures has gotten us to this point. Let’s start with testing. Remember when the CDC sent out faulty test kits early on, and it took a week to get test results? Now, two years into the pandemic, it’s truly sad the average person can’t get an affordable rapid test. Recently, Biden announced rapid at home testing would be covered by private insurance, but that still hasn’t happened. It makes no sense to require people to fork out for the test and then seek reimbursement. The uninsured and Medicaid or Medicare recipients can’t even get reimbursement.

That’s why the administration played catch-up today, promising to deliver a half-billion free rapid tests to homes next month. Federal testing sites will be established nationwide. That’s not bad, but we’re still far behind peer nations, where rapid tests are widely available in pharmacies, grocery stores, and doctors’ offices.

It’s also good that Biden’s expanding test sites. Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser urged D.C. residents to buy rapid testing kits to avoid long lines at testing sites. What’s wrong with this picture? It’s unreasonable to ask a person to risk getting COVID-19 while waiting in a crowd to be tested. It’s equally unreasonable to expect the average person to fork out $26 for a couple of tests.