President Joe Biden held a Zoom call with a group of governors yesterday, ostensibly to discuss what can be done to combat vaccine hesitancy and announce some new initiatives along those lines. This was basically a photo op without the photos because he collected a bipartisan group of six governors, three Democrats, and three Republicans. I assume this was supposed to be a feel-good, “we’re all in this together” moment. One of the only “new” proposals being rolled out actually isn’t a bad idea, though it’s not exactly new. Uncle Joe said that ride-sharing outlets Uber and Lyft will be giving free rides to anyone going to and from a vaccination pod, making it even easier for people to get a jab. As I said, it’s a nice idea, but Uber announced back in December that they were pledging ten million free rides to people with appointments to be vaccinated. In early February they signed a partnership with Walgreens for free rides to anyone going for a jab at those pharmacies. In other words, Biden didn’t invent this. He just added to what Uber was already doing.
The more interesting moment during the call didn’t have anything to do with the ride-sharing program, however. When the governors were allowed to ask questions and make suggestions, Utah Governor Spencer Cox politely brought up the real incentive a lot of people will need. He asked why Biden wasn’t telling people about more things that vaccinated people should be able to do. Biden’s answer was encouraging but ambiguous. (Associated Press)
Cox pressed Biden for assistance in highlighting the role of vaccinations bringing about a return to normalcy, echoing a growing complaint of public health professionals and others at the caution of the Biden administration in releasing guidance for those who are fully vaccinated.
“One area where we can use some help from the White House and others, and that is modeling what a fully vaccinated person can do,” said Cox. “I like to say that we have fully vaccinated people, we should start acting like it,” calling it a motivating force for those who haven’t yet gotten a shot.
“I think you’re going to see a more aggressive effort on our part to lay out that it’s not only you can hug your grandchildren, you can do a lot more,” Biden responded.
Cox was obviously trying to push Biden into saying that the vast majority of the rules should be going away for fully vaccinated people. (Though that should really apply to everyone at this point.) Without invoking the dreaded name of the CDC or Dr. Fauci, Cox was once again reminding the White House that people are already well past the point of being fed up with all of these mask mandates, particularly when you’re outdoors, where transmission of the virus virtually never happens.
Biden’s answer sounded like the words of someone who really wanted to deliver a winning line but simply had no idea what to say. What does “a lot more” really mean? What people really want to hear is that we have the most at-risk populations closing in on fully vaccinated territory and the younger, healthier people who are not vaccinated aren’t going to swamp the nation’s hospital ICU beds if transmission rates creep back up. And if that’s the case, it’s time for all of these executive mandates to be put on the shelf.
How close are we to that goal? As of this week, nearly 70% of Americans age 65 and up are fully vaccinated and more than 80% have had their first shot. The 50 to 65-year-olds are only a few points shy of 50% being fully vaccinated. Yes, there are still a lot of people who are holding off or simply refusing, but everyone else shouldn’t be punished for their decisions. Sadly, it appears that we’re still not going to hear an answer like that from Joe Biden, or at least not until the teachers’ unions give him permission to say it.
One other thing worth noting about this call is that it was streamed online with no reporters participating. So, as usual, there was no opportunity for anyone to ask Uncle Joe any questions. At this point, I’m wondering when Jen Psaki is just going to literally place a bushel basket over Biden’s head if any journalists come too close to him.