Just what a frightened, exhausted country needs to hear as it despairs over the pandemic ever ending.
Fauci was asked later during this same interview whether he’s considered retirement and said no, likening it to a soldier quitting in the middle of World War II. Imagine the effect on morale if America’s generals had spent that war musing aloud that it would never end. Or, worse, that it should never end.
Even Team Biden will be annoyed that he’s still talking like this, recognizing how it underlines the president’s failure to keep his campaign promise to “shut down the virus.”
ANCHOR: "Are we gonna get to the point where we won't have to wear masks on airplanes?"
Fauci: "I don't think so" pic.twitter.com/Mb1IShugqJ
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 19, 2021
The White House has been warned for months by righties that Fauci does more harm than good as a messenger. Why they persist in letting him go out there to push the “forever pandemic” message, knowing that endless school closures helped sink Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, is known only to them. It’s not just bad for morale, it’s bad for mitigation. Listening to this, someone who’s ambivalent about taking precautions during a wave of the new seemingly milder variant might throw up his hands and abandon them altogether. If we’re now facing permanent constraints on freedom in certain environments, like airplanes, we might reasonably want to luxuriate in freedom in others.
The White House is beginning to realize that “forever pandemic” talk corrodes the public’s willingness to try to limit the spread, which in turn will corrode Democrats’ electoral prospects. So their message is about to pivot away from daily case counts and towards severe illness, conveniently at the very moment America faces its most explosive surge in cases since March 2020.
Steering public attention away from the total number of infections and toward serious cases only — as some Biden advisers have encouraged — could prove a challenge after nearly two years of intense focus on the pandemic’s every up and down. It is a part of a growing conundrum that Biden faces as the Covid-19 pandemic refuses to abate.
“We’re getting to the point now where … it’s about severity,” said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a meeting with reporters this week. “It’s not about cases. It’s about severity.”
Becerra said the issue recently arose during a meeting at the White House with Biden’s Covid response team. Other officials also said the issue of how to refocus the public away from total cases toward the severity of illness has been an ongoing subject of discussion within the administration.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees here, though. As absurd as Fauci’s endorsement of permanent masking on planes is, the U.S. government is taking a much more liberal approach to containing Omicron than countries abroad are. The Netherlands is locking down over Christmas and the UK appears to be moving in that direction but Biden’s strategy for limiting the impact is vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. Fauci dismissed the prospect of lockdowns this morning as well:
Dr. Anthony Fauci tells @jonkarl that he doesn’t foresee more lockdowns as the omicron spreads across the country.
"But I certainly see the potential for stress on our hospital system.” https://t.co/pzvZMMAS8P pic.twitter.com/CmHFAWfK1u
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 19, 2021
He even encouraged people to hold their Christmas gatherings as scheduled — provided they’re vaccinated-only affairs and that attendees are doing what they can to try to avoid infection. In fact, as Europe clamps down with new restrictions, some American institutions are moving to relax COVID rules. The NFL just announced that players who are vaccinated and experiencing no symptoms no longer need to be tested weekly. (“Targeted” testing will be used instead.) The league seems to believe, correctly, that everyone’s going to catch Omicron and the season will derail if everyone with a positive test has to sit out for a week despite feeling fine. In that way, the NFL is mirroring the White House’s new approach: Severe or at least symptomatic illness is the new yardstick for COVID, not infection.
As for school closures, guess which staunch anti-lockdown Republican said this:
Asked on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday whether it makes sense to close schools, [X] said, “No, no, no,” adding “this is not March of 2020.”
On the previous day, the education department took the unusual step of calling on principals to quell rumors of imminent closure.
[X] has touted the school system’s official average positivity rate, which remains low, at 1.18%, but that number is based on a tiny sample of school communities who have consented to being tested.
Ron DeSantis? Nope. That’s New York’s far-left mayor, Bill de Blasio. Another executive not known for being a fire-breathing conservative also stridently opposes new school closures despite the anxiety over how quickly Omicron is spreading:
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tells @BretBaier on @FoxNewsSunday he is “not considering any lockdowns” despite Omicron variant. Facing surge. Says PG County schools going online “big mistake.”
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) December 19, 2021
Contra last March, most of America’s political class is prepared to roll the dice on sticking with business as usual in the belief that the new variant really is as mild as everyone hopes. If they’re right, Europeans will be furious at their own governments for having clamped down unnecessarily. If they’re wrong, uh oh.
I’ll leave you with this clip. Exit question: Does the FDA have an ETA for authorizing Pfizer’s miracle COVID pill or are they planning to leave that on the shelf until another hundred thousand people are dead?
Jake Tapper corrects Dr. Fauci after Fauci calls him "Chuck" pic.twitter.com/1q25eqMnR3
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2021
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