Uh, I hate to tell him but at the rate we’re going like half the country will have had COVID already by January 20.

If anything, he should ring in his presidency by hosting a big crowd on the Mall and celebrating America’s achievement by ceremonially removing his mask. Our decadent, deteriorating nation half-assed its pandemic response all the way to partial herd immunity!

I do think putting a time limit on his mask request is a smart idea, though. One of the most dispiriting elements of our long social-distancing journey is how indefinite it is. Regulations limiting some activity or another take effect with no indication of when they might end. You wake up one morning, are told that certain businesses are closed or public areas are off-limits, and you live with it until you’re told that they aren’t anymore. In an environment like that it’s easy to go slack on proper pandemic practices. If the ordeal never ends, you might as well live life, right?

Here’s Biden telling people, correctly, that it’s going to end. Barring some unforeseen snag in the vaccination process, daily new infections will have declined drastically by the end of April, which is when his mask timetable will expire. It should be safe-ish to take off the masks at that point. It’s also wise to plant the idea in people’s heads now that precautions against infection will still need to be taken during the first few months of the vaccine rollout. Many inevitably will receive the first dose of the vaccine, decide “I’m immune!”, and let down their guard even though (a) they’re not yet immune and (b) millions of other won’t yet have received the vaccine and will still be at risk from the virus. Pushing the expectation early that masks will remain necessary until spring is a way to counterprogram that complacency before it starts. Watch, then read on.

Mask use is already nearly ubiquitous, with 93 percent of Americans saying that they wear masks at least sometimes when they leave the house. What Biden’s worried about is people slacking off on that too soon. It’s a reasonable concern.

As for Fauci, it’s a no-brainer that Biden would keep him on considering that a poll published a month ago put Fauci’s approval rating at 72/28. Even if you want to knock a few points off of that because of how pre-election polls undersampled Trump fans, he probably still enjoys approval on the order of two-thirds of the public. That’s a rare case of bipartisan support for a public official with a very high profile. Basically, unless you’re watching Tucker Carlson every night, you probably like Fauci or at least have nothing against him. His public credibility is hugely important to Biden too at a delicate moment like the vaccine rollout, as he’s destined to be the point man on TV vouching for the vaccine’s safety and encouraging people to get it.

In fact, the two most prominent black public officials in U.S. history have already singled out Fauci by name in saying that his verdict would guide whether they get the vaccine or not. Kamala Harris said so three months ago and Barack Obama said so this morning:

“People like Anthony Fauci, who I know, and I’ve worked with, I trust completely,” Obama said. “So if Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting Covid, absolutely I’m going to take it.”

He continued: “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it. I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science.”

Obama said he was cognizant of suspicion in the African American community toward the rapidly developed vaccines, particularly considering the country’s history of medical malfeasance and abuse. He cited the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which federal medical researchers observed impoverished Black men with syphilis for 40 years without notifying them of their diagnoses and withholding treatment.

African-Americans may require extra convincing that the vaccine is safe. Having Obama, Harris, and Fauci attesting to it provides some extra. Fauci even said he’d get the shot on camera, as Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have. Every play in the persuasion playbook will be called before the vaccination process is over.

Speaking of which, new data from Pew shows that vaccine acceptance is up since September, which is great. Less great is that it’s still tepid among some groups, notably black Americans:

In lieu of an exit question, read this depressing LA Times piece about parents in Los Angeles trying to navigate the byzantine, often inexplicable regulations that have been imposed by local officials to slow the spread. It’s a perfect example of what I said up top about indefinite, unjustifiable restrictions leading people into exasperation and complacency. Exit quotation: “Let my kid swing on a f— swing.”