Biden’s Speech on Covid Vaccine Mandates, Annotated

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers who have been with us a long time will recall that I would occasionally pull out my Magic Markers™ and color code a speech with pink for “word salad,” yellow for “neoliberal catchphrase,” and so forth (for example). I’m not going to do that this time, partly because I’m pressed temporally due to a power failure, but mainly because Biden’s style — or the style his handlers and speechwriters think suits him — is so plain there’s really nothing to color code. However, besides color, I would also add footnotes where I thought there I had questions, or where there were issues of fact. And for this speech, there are a lot of footnotes. I would also footnote a particularly deft rhetorical thrust or technique; as I said, there won’t be so many of those notes for this speech. I’ve also numbered the paragraphs thus (0) for ready reference, all 95 of them. (Impatient readers may prefer to scan for the footnotes.)

A quick note on the political context for Biden’s speech:

Speaking politically, and not epidemiologically, an opposition that hadn’t lost its mind would already have pointed out that the current wave started when Biden and Walensky said you could take off your masks if you were vaccinated. The American people, who are not, no matter what anybody says, stupid, immediately understand that operationally this meant everybody could unmask, since there was no way to know who was vaccinated and who was not. Many did so. Meanwhile, the Democrat Outer Party was busily proclaiming “hot vax summer.” And such an opposition might well say that here we have a familiar pattern: A government eases up on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions due to pressure from capital, and the virus comes roaring back. One can blame Delta, of course, as Biden does in paragraphs (2) and (11), but how did it make sense to meet Delta unmasked and ready to party?

Still speaking politically, I don’t see why this speech shouldn’t end up doing Biden some good. First, the plain style suits him. “Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries,” for example, is very good. I can’t imagine Trump saying it, and I can’t imagine a towel-snapping frat boy like Bush saying it and sounding like he meant it. As for Obama… Obama spoke in paragraphs, not declarative sentences. So, no. Second, Biden may not only be lucky in his enemies, but lucky in his timing. It now appears Biden spoke near the last peak (which the chart above shows). Never mind that Biden owns that peak; the crazed opposition isn’t reminding anyone of that, and there’s no reason for Democrats to bring it up. If — and it’s a big if — there is a sudden and inexplicable decline in cases starting in September — as there was in January 2021, and after all that holiday travel, too — then Biden may well be able to take the credit for it. Third, I think the country wants to see some action from the molasses-brained Biden administration; finally, they’re getting it. (The first polling to come out after the speech says it didn’t “move the needle” on Biden’s job performance, but I think it’s action that will, and Biden has laid the groundwork for that.) Fourth, I think there’s a deadline: Thanksgiving (family; travel). Biden needs to show he’s got the virus under control by then (for some definition of “under control”).

This will be a lengthy post, since almost every one of the 95 paragraphs deserves a note. But I think a close reading (transcript) is the best way to come to grips with Biden, the man and politician, and his program, and so close this reading will be. To the speech!

* * *

(1) THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, my fellow Americans. I want to talk to you about where we are in the battle against COVID-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do[1].

[1] Strong, simple signposting throughout.

(2) And it starts with understanding this: Even as the Delta variant 19 [sic] has — COVID-19 — has been hitting this country hard, we have the tools[1] to combat the virus, if we can come together as a country[2] and use those tools.

[1] Here is Biden’s six-point plan.

[2] Partly, this is the fetish for unity shared by the political class (as putatively shown after 9/11; here, here). However, both masking and vaccination are collective action problems as well.

(3) If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing[1], and identify people who are infected[2], we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.

[1] Note that contact testing is not on.

[2] No mention of ventilation or “sharing air.” (To be fair, Biden’s six-point plan uses the word. Once.)

[3] What on earth does “turn the tide” mean? The endpoint could anything from “zero covid” to “live with it” (i.e., “let ‘er rip”).

(4) It will take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time. Many of us[1] are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the[2] vaccine is safe[3], effective, and free[4].

p>[1] Who is “us”? (I would submit the Democrat base, the PMC. By universalizing “us,” Biden is necessarily papering over the PMC’s existential political problem: They’re not big enough or powerful enough to dominate (see also “unity”).

[2] There are several, which vary in their action and effect.

[3] Safe enough, perhaps. But that’s not what Biden says. If I were a woman who mentruates, for example, I might be more concerned. (The lack of Democrat concern for their base in terms of gender (female) and occupation (nurses and teachers are disproportionately women) is odd.)

[4] Not if you can’t afford to miss work, it isn’t.

(5) You might be confused about what is true and what is false about COVID-19[1]. So before I outline the new steps to fight COVID-19 that I’m going to be announcing tonight, let me give you some clear information about where we stand.

[1] More good signposting.

(6) First, we have cons- — we have made considerable progress in battling COVID-19. When I became President, about 2 million Americans were fully vaccinated. Today, over 175 million Americans have that protection[1].

[1] What Biden needs to show is that he accelerated vaccine adoption. If he can’t, increased adoption isn’t the result of a change in administration. On the numbers we have, he can’t show that.

(7) [This paragraph intentionally left blank.]

(8) Before I took office[1], we hadn’t ordered enough vaccine for every American[2]. Just weeks in office, we did. The week before I took office, on January 20th of this year, over 25,000 Americans died that week from COVID-19. Last week, that grim weekly toll was down 70 percent[3].

[1] If Biden really wanted unity, and really wanted to reach out to Republicans, he could mention that the vaccines were developed by “the former guy.” Maybe Trump needs to give Jill candy at a state funeral.

[2] Placing an order is not, perhaps, the greatest of achievements, especially if the manufacturing capacity is there, which it was.

[3] It is true that the rise in deaths during the recent “Biden peak” is not as great as it was in earlier waves. It’s significant nonetheless.

(9) And in the three months before I took office, our economy was faltering, creating just 50,000 jobs a month. We’re now averaging 700,000 new jobs a month in the past three months[1].

[1]

Give credit, though Biden might have mentioned the shift in balance between labor and capital. (I suppose mentioning union activity is too much to ask.)

(10) This progress is real. But while America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office, I need to tell you a second fact.

(11) We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while. The highly contagious Delta variant that I began to warn America about back in July[1] spread in late summer like it did in other countries before us[2].

[1] He did.

[2] WaPo mentioned B.1.617 (Delta’s old name) back in January. So why wasn’t this “tough stretch” prevented? (See remarks on “hot vax summer,” above.)

(12) While the vaccines provide strong protections for the vaccinated, we read about, we hear about, and we see the stories of hospitalized people, people on their death beds, among the unvaccinated over these past few weeks.

(13) This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated[1]. And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations[2], we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.[3]

[1] I think “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is a pernicious phrase. I’m not alone. From AP, “Questioning a catchphrase: ‘Pandemic of the unvaccinated“:

But the term doesn’t appear to be changing the hearts and minds of unvaccinated people. And it doesn’t tell the whole story, with some breakthrough infections occurring among the fully vaccinated. That recent twist led health officials to recommend a return to masks and a round of booster shots.

“It is true that the unvaccinated are the biggest driver, but we mustn’t forget that the vaccinated are part of it as well, in part because of the delta variant,” said Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. “The pandemic clearly involves all people, not just the unvaccinated.”

Topol points to Louisiana, where data from the state suggest that nearly 10% of hospitalized patients are vaccinated.

Branding it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” could have the unintended consequence of stigmatizing the unvaccinated. “We should not partition them as the exclusive problem,” Topol said.

It’s also a moving target. What next? “A pandemic of the unboostered?”

[2] Biden, like many PMC, assumes that “free” in the marketplace means easy in life. It’s not so. From the Seattle Times, “COVID-19 now a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’? Not so fast”:

But it’s not that simple and to oversimplify by calling it a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” will only make the problem worse.

I think for many — especially in liberal, well-vaccinated Seattle — unvaccinated people are perceived to be white MAGA supporters who listen to conservative media telling them that vaccines are dangerous and that COVID-19 is a hoax. Yet that perception does not include the Black and Latino people who lag in vaccination rates; it also fails to consider the wider range of people who are unvaccinated or unable to get protection from vaccines.

If we accept the idea that it’s now just a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and those smart enough to get vaccinated should be able to go back to pre-pandemic life and too bad for everyone else, we are also leaving behind groups like all children under 12 who do not yet have access to vaccines; teens who remain unvaccinated (only 34% of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated in Washington state); immunocompromised people who are not seeing immune response from vaccines; as well as communities of color who are hit hardest by the virus. In Washington, for example, Hispanics account for 29% of COVID-19 cases, 13% of the population and only 9% of people fully vaccinated.

People of color, one reads, are the Democrat base, their chief care and concern. So stigmatizing them seems odd.

[3] Yes, we’re looking at an enormous debacle by the public health establishment, who should be hekd accountable when all this is over, if it ever is.

(14) And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19[1]. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up[2], they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities. This is totally unacceptable.

[1] Personally, I’m glad Biden is taking it to the Republicans on this one. I think it will play well. At the same time, over the course of the entire pandemic, Blue states have also done poorly (very much including the national epicenter, New York).

[2] Perhaps if administration and CDC messaging on masking had shown the slightest consistency, they might be willing to do that. And much else.

(15) Third, if you wonder how all this adds up, here’s the math: The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing. Nearly three quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any. That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated[1]. And in a country as large as ours, that’s 25 percent minority. That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage — and they are[1].

[1] UPDATE But see alert reader George Phillies on Biden’s arithmetic.

[2] I thought liberal Democrats weren’t supposed to stigmatize minorities. Oh well.

(16) The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning[1] the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or pancreitis [pancreatitis], or cancer.

[1] Like insects or vermin.

[2] Of course, the question of why capacity is too low is not addressed.

(17) And fourth, I want to emphasize that the vaccines provide very strong protection from severe illness from COVID-19[1]. I know there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation. But the world’s leading scientists confirm that if you are fully vaccinated, your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is very low[2].

[1] As readers know, that’s not what Biden and Walensky were saying in July. They said “you are protected,” with no qualification.

[2] Biden slides over breakthrough infections (they happen in appreciable numbers) and whether the vaccinated transmit (they do). This implies that an endpoint where considerable transmission is still going on is acceptable to Biden.

(18) In fact, based on available data from the summer, only one of out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalized for COVID per day.

(19) These are the facts[1].

[1] The plain style again.

(20) So here’s where we stand: The path ahead, even with the Delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter. But what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans[1] –supported by a distinct minority of elected officials[2] — are keeping us from turning the corner[3]. These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.

[1] Ironically, as we have seen, many in this stigmatized minority are themselves minorities. Why weren’t liberal Democrats able to reach them?

[2] This assumes — heck, openly states — that the unvaccinated are represented by anti-vax elected officials. That’s simply false.

[3] Again, what does this vague phrase mean?

(21) We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part[1] and want to get back to life as normal.

[1] I have never understood why Biden never lavishly praised people who masked up — or people who complied with Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions generally. It’s all been vax, vax, vax. It’s bizarre. Biden never even praises the work-from-home crowd, and they’re his base!

(22) As your President, I’m announcing tonight a new plan to require[1] more Americans to be vaccinated, to combat those blocking public health.

[1] I would be more comfortable with a mandate if all voluntary methods had been tried. One obvious method is paid time off. They Democrats have controlled Congress since January. Why wasn’t this passed?

(23) My plan also increases testing, protects our economy, and will make our kids safer in schools. It consists of six broad areas of action and many specific measures in each that — and each of those actions that you can read more about at WhiteHouse.gov. WhiteHouse.gov.

(24) The measures — these are going to take time[1] to have full impact. But if we implement them, I believe and the scientists indicate, that in the months ahead we can reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans, decrease hospitalizations and deaths[2], and allow our children to go to school safely[3] and keep our[4] economy strong by keeping businesses open.

[1] Again, my deadline is Thanksgiving.

[2] Notably, not case numbers, so “live with it”?

[3] Not without ventilation they won’t.

[4] Who’s “we”?

(25) First, we must increase vaccinations among the unvaccinated with new vaccination requirements. Of the nearly 80 million eligible Americans who have not gotten vaccinated, many said they were waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA. Well, last month, the FDA granted that approval[1].

[1] This is false. The approval was granted to Pfizer only.

(26) So, the time for waiting is over. This summer, we made progress through the combination of vaccine requirements and incentives, as well as the FDA approval. Four million more people got their first shot in August than they did in July.

[1] As I have pointed out, by world standards we rank just below Ecuador, and just above Switzerland and Malaysia.

(27) But we need to do more. This is not about freedom or personal choice[1]. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love[2].

[1] Well, I’m glad somebody took this on.

[2] A stirring defense of public health. However, again we slip into the binary of protected vs. not protected. Given breakthrough infections and transmissibility of the vaccinated, when it comes to cases, the protection is not absolute.

(28) My job as President is to protect all Americans.

[1] Again, the plain style serves Biden well (though the words may come back to haunt him).

(29) So, tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.

[1] This is, if anything, a reversal of existing Biden administration policy, rather than an extension of it:

A very useful thread of details to watch.

(30) Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News[1].

[1] FOX News… Zing!

(31) The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers[1]. We’re going to reduce the spread[2] of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.

[1] The logic is not clear here. If the vaccinated are protected, then why do they need protection from the unvaccinated? The answer, which Biden is dancing around, can only be that the vaccines are not sterilizing, and that the vaccinated can still be infected. (Of course, if we’re talking taboo-style ritual shunning, then different forms of logic apply.) What is not clear to me, and I welcome information from readers, is whether, in the past, we have mandated non-sterilizing vaccines. For example, measles and polio are sterilizing, in the sense that one need take them once (possibly with a single booster), and are mandated. But we do not mandate the flu vaccine, which is not. Have we ever mandated a non-sterilizing vaccine that will require an unknown number of booster shots? It would have been nice of Biden had at least gestured vaguely in the direction of these questions.

[2] So, “live with it,” then?

(32) My plan will extend the vaccination requirements that I previously issued in the healthcare field. Already, I’ve announced, we’ll be requiring vaccinations that all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid, because I have that federal authority.

[1] Hopefully, this will not cause labor shortages (since nurses are disproportionately unvaccinated).

(33) Tonight, I’m using that same authority to expand that to cover those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers[1].

[1] As above.

(34) If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated. Simple. Straightforward. Period.[1]

[1] Once again, the plain style. (Although given for-profit health care’s penchant for insanely complex administration, one wonders how one would know.)

(35) Next, I will sign an executive order that will now require all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated[1] — all. And I’ve signed another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same[1].

[1] So much for bodily autonomy, important to liberal Democrats in other contexts (and in Constitutional law). Again, this was worth a gesture from Biden.

(36) If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated. If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce.[1]

[1] It’s amusing to contemplate how our mercenaries will react to this. Perhaps there will be an exemption for them.

(37) And tonight, I’m removing one of the last remaining obstacles that make it difficult for you to get vaccinated.

(38) The Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated. No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated[1].

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this done back in January? Or July?

(39) Today, in total, the vaccine requirements in my plan will affect about 100 million Americans –- two thirds of all workers.

[1] What we don’t know is how many essential workers, many of whom surely work in companies with fewer than 100 workers, will be affected.

(40) And for other sectors, I issue this appeal: To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas to concert venues to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry.

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this done back in January? Or July?

(41) And to the nation’s family physicians, pediatricians, GPs — general practitioners –- you’re the most trusted medical voice to your patients. You may be the one person who can get someone to change their mind about being vaccinated.

[1] True. Honoring one such — or other successful persuaders — at the White House would have been good public relations. This highly successful persuader was a black woman — and profiled in The New Yorker!

(42) Tonight, I’m asking each of you to reach out to your unvaccinated patients over the next two weeks and make a personal appeal to them to get the shot. America needs your personal involvement in this critical effort.

[1] If their clinical experience allows them too, it goes without saying (and did).

(43) And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?[1] What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient.

[1] For those who need paid time off work, they need to wait for OSHA to write the rule, which will take three or four weeks. (Interestingly, “‘The White House is asking OSHA how fast they can do it, and OSHA said, ‘Who the hell knows?” said Jordan Barab, a deputy director of the agency under Mr. Obama. ‘They only had a week’s notice.'” Once again, why was this not done in January? Or July? We were sold Ron Klain on the basis that he was Mr. Ebola and a mastert administrator. So where was he on this.

(44) The vaccine has FDA approval[1]. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.

[1] No, it doesn’t, unless the only vaccine is Pfizer.

(45) We’ve[1] been patient, but our patience is wearing thin[2]. And your[3] refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing. But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.” “If only.”

[1] Who’s “we”?

[2] Nonsense. Liberal Democrats deeply believe they’ve done everything they could have done, and hence the resort to coercion. They haven’t. In this speech alone, see notes (11)[2], (22)[1], (38)[1], (40)[1], (74)[1] and following, (76)[1], and (91)[1] plus CDC’s miserably inadequate and inconsistent messaging. Also, the spectacle of the liberal Democrat Outer Party gleefully characterizing a portion of the unvaccinated as animals based on their use of off-label medication cannot have been helpful. (It is, of course, entirely possible to be vaccinated and to take additional medication in case of reinfection.) That the molasses-brained Biden administration has “lost patience” really ticks me off. Ironies abound.

(46) It’s a tragedy. Please don’t let it become yours[1].

[1] The plain style once more.

(47) The second piece of my plan is continuing to protect the vaccinated[1].

[1] From…

(48) For the vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated. I understand the anxiety about getting a “breakthrough” case.

[1] But since the vaccinated transmit, breakthrough infections of the vaccinated can come from the vaccinated! (Granted, the numbers might be small, but since the CDC decided only to collect a subset of them, we don’t know that.

(49) But as the science makes clear, if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from severe illness, even if you get COVID-19.

(50) In fact, recent data indicates there is only one confirmed[1] positive case per 5,000 fully vaccinated Americans per day.

[1] I hate to be churlish, because Biden is directionally correct, but we don’t know where the “recent data” comes from, and we “confirmed” seems to be doing a lot of work. If you want us to trust the science, cite to it!

(51) You’re as safe as possible, and we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way — keep it that way, keep you safe.

[1] Words that may come back to haunt. Biden and Walensky most certainly did not do “everything” back on May 27!

(52) That’s where boosters[1] come in — the shots that give you even more protection than after your second shot.

[1] So, will boosters be mandated? Biden’s logic would seem to argue that they will.

(53) Now, I know there’s been some confusion about boosters. So, let me be clear: Last month, our top government doctors announced an initial plan[1] for booster shots for vaccinated Americans[2]. They believe that a booster is likely to provide the highest level of protection[3] yet.

[1] So, the plan isn’t final? Why?

[2] See US as Failed State: Covid Booster Shot Mess at NC.

[3] What does “highest level of protection” even mean?

(54) Of course, the decision of which booster shots to give, when to start them, and who will give them, will be left completely[1] to the scientists at the FDA[2] and the Centers for Disease Control[3].

[1] Oh.

[2] Two of the FDA’s top scientists having resigned over boosters.

[3] So, our “top government doctors” made the decision that there would be boosters, but the CDC and the FDA — presumably, then, not “top government doctors” — will handle the implementation? Decision-making seems a little hazy, here.

(55) But while we wait[1], we’ve done our part. We’ve bought enough boosters[2] — enough booster shots — and the distribution system is ready to administer them[3].

[1]No pressure!

[2] Similar to Operation Warp Speed (and presumably we can dump whatever shots are not used on COVAX. So it’s all good).

[3] UPDATE Another population that has “done their part” is those who have natural immunity because they have already gotten Covid. From Science: “‘We continue to underestimate the importance of natural infection immunity … especially when [infection] is recent,” says Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at Scripps Research. “And when you bolster that with one dose of vaccine, you take it to levels you can’t possibly match with any vaccine in the world right now.'” Note “one dose.” Implying, perhaps, that those with natural immunity and one jab don’t need a booster? Did Biden’s team take this into account?

(56) As soon as they are authorized[1], those eligible will be able to get a booster right away in tens of thousands of site across the — sites across the country for most Americans, at your nearby drug store[2], and for free[3].

[1] And they will be authorized (see (54)[3]).

[2] Just today: “18 leading scientists, including 2 outgoing FDA officials, say COVID-19 booster shots lack evidence and shouldn’t yet be given to the general public.”

[3] I’m amazed the Medicare for All people aren’t leveraging this “free at the point of care” program. Perhaps they’re waiting for the pandemic to die down.

(57) The third piece of my plan is keeping — and maybe the most important — is keeping our children safe and our schools open. For any parent, it doesn’t matter how low the risk of any illness or accident is when it comes to your child or grandchild. Trust me, I know[1].

[1] Biden’s whole ethos in four words.

(58) So, let me speak to you directly. Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries.

(59) It comes down to two separate categories: children ages 12 and older who are eligible for a vaccine now, and children ages 11 and under who are not are yet eligible.

(60) The safest thing for your child 12 and older is to get them vaccinated. They get vaccinated for a lot of things[1]. That’s it. Get them vaccinated.

[1] As with measles, they must get vaccinated once with a sterilizing vaccine (and maybe a booster later on). As with the flu, may get vaccinated with a non-sterilizing vaccine multiple boosters.

(61) As with adults, almost all the serious COVID-19 cases we’re seeing among adolescents are in unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds — an age group that lags behind in vaccination rates[1].

[1] Teen vaccination got off to a strong start, then lagged. I’m not sure why. Another issue Biden might have gestured toward.

(62) So, parents, please get your teenager vaccinated.

(63) What about children under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet? Well, the best way[1] for a parent to protect their child under the age of 12 starts at home. Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated.

[1] Just no. Vax, vax, vax. The only way forward is a defense in depth that includes ventilation, social distancing, perhaps the creation of pods, even prophylaxis. Maybe send the kids away to a safer state, as immediately below.

(64) Children have four times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in a state with low vaccination rates rather than the states with high vaccination rates.

(65) Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will it be — when will it be — the vaccine available for them. I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12. We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work.[1]

[1] But…

(66) But I’ve made it clear I will do everything within my power to support the FDA with any resource it needs to continue to do this[1] as safely and as quickly as possible, and our nation’s top doctors[2] are committed to keeping the public at large updated on the process so parents can plan.

[1] In other words, the decision is made.

[2] Once again, a vague description of the decision-making process. Presumably the “top doctors” are not the ones who resigned from the FDA?

(67) Now to the schools. We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for[1], social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools[2].

[1] And even throw in a casual mention once in awhile, thanks very much! And I would like very much to know how much of that money has been spent, because from what I hear from schools, they’re all over the map, even in the same state.

[2] Here, Biden recommends a defense in depth. But for families with children under 12, he doesn’t (see (63)[1]). Why?

(68) Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated. We should get that to 100 percent. My administration has already acquired teachers at the schools run by the Defense Department — because I have the authority as President in the federal system — the Defense Department and the Interior Department — to get vaccinated. That’s authority I possess.

(69) Tonight, I’m announcing that we’ll require all of nearly 300,000 educators in the federal paid program, Head Start program, must be vaccinated as well to protect your youngest — our youngest — most precious Americans and give parents the comfort[1].

[1] That’s not grammatical. This is paragraph 69 of 95. 69/95 = 0.72, so Biden’s getting tired on the final turn before the home stretch.

(70) And tonight, I’m calling on[1] all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff[2]. Some already have done so, but we need more to step up.

[1] This is moral suasion only.

[2] Public and charters both? Surely one starts a charter to avoid this sort of thing?

(71) Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new[1]. They work. They’re overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions. And to all school officials trying to do the right thing by our children: I’ll always be on your side.

[1] I don’t think all vaccines are equal, and I’m not sure MMR is a precedent. See (60)[1].

(72) Let me be blunt. My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs[1]. Talk about bullying in schools. If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way[1].

[1] Which Biden is doing, albeit for a different and perhaps higher purpose.

(73) The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered. Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent. I promise you I will have your back[1].

[1] Presumably, somebody will take Biden up on this, so it will be interesting to see how this develops as a narrative and plays out, presumably giving Biden some good press.

(74) The fourth piece of my plan is increasing testing and masking. From the start, America has failed to do enough COVID-19 testing[1]. In order to better detect and control the Delta variant, I’m taking steps tonight to make testing more available, more affordable, and more convenient. I’ll use the Defense Production Act[2] to increase production of rapid tests, including those that you can use at home.

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this addressed back in January? Or July?

[2] Excellent, but ditto.

(75) While that production is ramping up, my administration has worked with top retailers, like Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger’s, and tonight we’re announcing that, no later than next week[1], each of these outlets will start to sell at-home rapid test kits at cost[2] for the next three months. This is an immediate price reduction for at-home test kits for up to[2] 35 percent reduction.

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this addressed back in January? Or July?

[2] Why not free?

[3] But possibly less?

(76) We’ll also expand — expand free testing at 10,000 pharmacies around the country. And we’ll commit — we’re committing $2 billion to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, schools, so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests. This is important to everyone, particularly for a parent or a child — with a child not old enough to be vaccinated. You’ll be able to test them at home and test those around them.

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this addressed back in January? Or July?

(77) In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation.

(78) Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask[1]. If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.

[1] Good. Not masking on a plane is more obnoxious than talking on your cellphone in the quiet car. This is also another potential narrative waiting to play out, and give Biden some good press.

(79) And, by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly.

[1] Correct. I only wish Biden could do something for all the retail and service workers who are handling mask enforcement, and who take abuse as much as flight attendants do, with no union to protect them.

(80) The fifth piece of my plan is protecting our economic recovery. Because of our vaccination program and the American Rescue Plan, which we passed early in my administration, we’ve had record job creation for a new administration, economic growth unmatched in 40 years. We cannot let unvaccinated do this progress — undo it, turn it back[1].

[1] Deploy the blame cannons! (Dude, supply chain issues? Labor shortages?)

(81) So tonight, I’m announcing additional steps to strengthen our economic recovery. We’ll be expanding COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs. That’s a program that’s going to allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million from the current $500,000 to keep going if COVID-19 impacts on their sales.

(82) These low-interest, long-term loans require no repayment for two years and be can used to hire and retain workers, purchase inventory, or even pay down higher cost debt racked up since the pandemic began. I’ll also be taking additional steps to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.

[1] Not sure the macro effects of this will be significant.

(83) Sixth, we’re going to continue to improve the care of those who do get COVID-19. In early July, I announced the deployment of surge response teams. These are teams comprised of experts from the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Defense Department, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — to areas in the country that need help to stem the spread of COVID-19.

[1] Good, but since this (for once) was done back in July, why is it here?

(84) Since then, the federal government has deployed nearly 1,000 staff, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, into 18 states. Today, I’m announcing that the Defense Department will double the number of military health teams that they’ll deploy to help their fellow Americans in hospitals around the country[1].

[1] The numbers seem clear, but they’re not. The Federal government deploys 1,000, but the Defense Department is a subset of the Federal Government. So the doubled number is less than 2,000 but what it is, we do not know.

(85) Additionally, we’re increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspir- — conspiracy theorists[1]. The monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown[2] to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent for unvaccinated people at risk of developing sefe- — severe disease[3].

[1] Come on, man. Plenty of credentialed — that means “real,” right? — clinicians — ditto — prescribed repurposed medication for off-label use, whether for treatment or prophylaxis. Given that these medications are safe, cheap, and have significant upside potential, they are to be praised, not blamed. And how often the unity schtick is instantly abandoned when convenient!

[2] No, it hasn’t. Cochrane: “The efficacy and safety of SARS‐CoV‐2‐neutralising mAbs [monoclonal antibodies] are not yet well‐characterised, with only a few studies having been published (BLAZE‐1 (phase 2); COMET‐ICE; Eom 2021; Weinreich (phase 1/2); ACTIV‐3; RECOVERY). Additional data in the form of full‐text publications are expected to be published soon, and several studies have completed recruitment, therefore new evidence will not be long in coming.”

[3] Monoclonal antibodies are only available under an EUA, so “recommended by real doctors” is doing a lot more work than Biden intends. Cochrane once more: “An EUA is possible only in the context of a declared emergency when no viable alternatives are available. It does not constitute the approval of a medical product but facilitates its availability when it is not yet approved or is approved for a different indication.”

(86) We’ve already distributed 1.4 million courses of these treatments to save lives and reduce the strain on hospitals. Tonight, I’m announcing we will increase the average pace of shipment across the country of free monoclonal antibody treatments by another 50 percent.

[1] “Free at the point of care” is great, but if we can do that for “new” medicines that are “not yet well‐characterised,” why not for repurposed ones?

(87) Before I close, let me say this: Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by this virus. And as we continue to battle COVID-19, we will ensure that equity continues to be at the center of our response. We’ll ensure that everyone is reached. My first responsibility as President is to protect the American people and make sure we have enough vaccine for every American, including enough boosters for every American who’s approved[1] to get one.

[1] Oh, so there’s an approval process…

(88) We also know this virus transcends borders. That’s why, even as we execute this plan at home, we need to continue fighting the virus overseas, continue to be the arsenal of vaccines[1].

[1] What we ought to be doing is enabling others to be their own arsenals by removing IP barriers and technology transfer. How’s that going?

(89) We’re proud to have donated nearly 140 million vaccines[1] over 90 countries, more than all other countries combined, including Europe, China, and Russia combined. That’s American leadership on a global stage, and that’s just the beginning.

[1] Since it will take 11 billion doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population,140 million is not very much.

(90) We’ve also now started to ship another 500 million COVID vaccines — Pfizer vaccines — purchased to donate to 100 lower-income countries in need of vaccines[1]. And I’ll be announcing additional steps to help the rest of the world later this month.

[1] As above.

(91) As I recently released[1] the key parts of my pandemic preparedness plan so that America isn’t caught flat-footed when a new pandemic comes again — as it will — next month, I’m also going to release the plan in greater detail.

[1] Why on earth wasn’t this done back in January? Or July?

(92) So let me close with this: We have so- — we’ve made so much progress during the past1 seven months of this pandemic. The recent increases in vaccinations in August already are having an impact in some states where case counts are dropping in recent days[1]. Even so, we remain at a critical moment, a critical time. We have the tools. Now we just have to finish the job with truth, with science, with confidence, and together as one nation.

[1] Come on, man. “Recent days” include reporting over Labor Day weekend!

(93) Look, we’re the United States of America. There’s nothing — not a single thing — we’re unable to do if we do it together[1]. So let’s stay together.

[1] That may be true. However, I cannot be the only one who finds it incongruous to find calls for unity right beside remarks like “our patience is wearing thin” with a population that’s heavily skewed toward the marginalized groups that liberal Democrats are supposed to be caring for, and that confuses noisy anti-vax electeds with populations they don’t necessarily represent. Further, I could wish that clinicians seeking to do their best by their patients weren’t stigmatized. A President of all the people would do well to give consideration to the idea of not pandering to the prejudices of his rather-too-narrow base.

(94) God bless you all and all those who continue to serve on the frontlines of this pandemic. And may God protect our troops.

(95) Get vaccinated.

* * *

Well, if you have stuck with the post this long, congratulations. Here are some conclusions:

(1) As far as Biden, the man, I think his Beltway reputation for empathy — much as I find it cringe — is not undeserved. Much as I hate to admit it, the pleas to the American people in Biden’s plain style work well. At least it’s an ethos.

(2) For Biden, the politician, the plan provides at least two sites for narratives to develop and play out to Biden’s advantage: Protecting flight attendants, and protecting teachers or school officials (“I will have your back”). I remain, however, amazed that Biden has never sought to create a positive narrative around vaccine persuaders, Corsi box builders, nurses and teachers, and the like; everybody who’s coping with the pandemic and helping others to cope. BIden has been very top-down, and never invites members of the congregation up to share the bully pulpit. I think that missed opportunity will cost him.

(3) For Biden, the administrator, much of his six-point plan could and should have been implemented months ago (see (45)[2] for a list in this post). Prominent among them is paid leave to get vaccinated. We’re [breaks out calculator] nine months into undivided governance, and we haven’t already gotten this done? Really? I have continually characterized the Biden Administration as “molasses-brained.” I don’t think I’m wrong.

(4) Biden, the executive, is much too sloppy on detail. He’s wrong on monoclonal antibodies (see (85)[2]-[3]). He’s wrong on boosters (see (53)[2], (54)[2]). He’s wrong on “the unvaccinated” both as a monolithic category and in detail (see (13)[1]-[2]). Those are big things to be wrong on. Further, as an executive, Biden has not set clear goals. But out of the murk of “turn the tide” and “turn the corner” emerges, I think, the outline of “live with it” (given variants, “let ‘er rip”), and most definitely not “zero Covid.” What living with it turns out to be, given that fundamentally nothing will change, is anybody’s guess.

Biden has necessarily staked his Presidency on his pandemic performance. If he fails — and as I said above, I think the deadline is Thanksgiving — then I think historians, looking back, will say he waited much too long to do anything remotely like the right thing.

Readers, what did I miss?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

117 comments

  1. Louis Fyne

    now if anyone in the Commentariat wants a gold star, compare/contrast with the polio vaccine rollout…..particularly if one has first-hand anecdotes

    Reply
    1. IM Doc

      Right off the bat – the first hand anecdote I do not want to have repeated is this right here –

      https://www.nytimes.com/1955/05/05/archives/bulbar-polio-kills-doctors-grandson.html

      That is the best link I could find to the story right now. But it is very important nonetheless. Dr. Alton Oschner was the closest thing to someone in stature in the 1950s as Dr. Koop was in the 1980s. He thought it best to vaccinate his 2 grandchildren on TV in New Orleans for all to see how safe it was. The debacle that was about to unfurl in the country was known as the Cutter Event. That particular vaccine ended up being very problematic and killed thousands of kids all over America – maiming many more. There were those in the federal health apparatus that were deeply concerned beforehand – but were ignored. It is a blemish on public health for all time.

      Unfortunately, one of the children was dead within weeks, the other was maimed with polio the rest of her life.

      I do not believe in any way shape or form that enough safety data is known for the COVID vaccination of our children in what for them is a very low risk disease process. There are studies now coming down, especially in boys, that COVID vaccine risk may be higher than COVID risk. Let me put it this way, with conviction, my sons will not be vaccinated whatsoever until much further safety and efficacy data is known. As in absolutely not. With the oncoming mandates, I am concerned it will be no time before this is mandated for the kids and I see, just like with the vaccines for adults this past winter, legions of physicians vaccinating their kids on Facebook. It is called stupid human tricks. I simply cannot comprehend this whole impulse. It has the potential to backfire “bigly”.

      Reply
      1. GM

        There are studies now coming down, especially in boys, that COVID vaccine risk may be higher than COVID risk

        The COVID risk is hidden.

        The immune system damage incurred is not visible in kids because they are kids, but is still very real. T-cells are a limited resource (we don’t really have a thymus past a certain age), and this virus is triggering massive overstimulation, dysregulation, exhaustion, accelerated aging.

        Problem is that this will be conclusively proven only when 60 years from now it turns out their life expectancy is 70 instead of 80 (and that assumes this infection will be their first and last, while under current policies it will be the first of many, and they will definitely not live to 70).

        Of course that does not mean that the vaccine should have been rushed the way it has been, but it has to be kept in mind.

        Reply
        1. IM Doc

          I have learned the hard way to never trust Big Pharma with anything. The fact that this vaccine program was handed over to them and not some other agency ( which we really do not have ) without all the baggage is the problem for me. I will NOT trust Big Pharma or anything they say with the lives of my kids. Anything that gets put into my kids in any way has to have years of use outside in the real world. They are fully vaccinated with everything else with a few exceptions because I trust the experience garnered over the years. I have too many scars from multitudes of patients over the years that have learned this lesson the hard way.

          It is one thing to have a drug reaction that is unexpected. It is another thing entirely to have drug reactions and problems that were known by Big Pharma and covered up or hidden during the research phase. And they have made a habit of this repeatedly. How many drugs have been taken off the market very rapidly – only to find out they knew there was a problem?

          I do not think I am alone in this assessment – not by a long shot. Among medical people or the public. The behavior and events this year have done nothing but fuel the concerns. I hear about it every day.

          Reply
        2. outside observer

          Question – with some of the research showing stronger immunity to reinfection with delta variant after natural infection with alpha, why do you assume the infection will be the first of many? And if one is vaccinated and has a breakthrough infection, wouldn’t recovery also confer greater protection against reinfection from another variant? Wouldn’t childhood be the safest time to build up some broader immunity? Sorry if I’ve missed an earlier discussion on this.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            Immunity wanes and in not too long a period of time ends. Immunity from getting an infection is largely to entirely gone after 8 months, based on regular, very large-scale testing in the UK. That is immunity to reinfection by the SAME variant of Covid. There have been many documented cases of repeat infections (sequenced so it was clear these were genuine second infections, and not a simple very protracted single infection) at shorter intervals. Immunity to an infection by a new variant sufficiently different than the one contracted or vaccinated agains also shortens the duration of immunity.

            GM can give much more detail but this is the 30,000 foot version.

            Reply
            1. outside observer

              In an endemic let it rip scenario, is immunity not kept from waning? I’ve seen discussion that exposure is effectively a booster shot. Might have been Dr. John Campbell, not sure. In that case, boosters might not be needed except for those at higher risk – elderly, obese, diabetes, etc.

              Reply
              1. Yves Smith

                You do not want to get Covid, period. Even with some individuals suffering vaccine side effects, getting immunity by getting Covid is a bad dumb idea. A vaccine is a less costly and risky way to achieve the same end.

                Reply
        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The COVID risk is hidden.

          > The immune system damage incurred is not visible in kids because they are kids, but is still very real. T-cells are a limited resource (we don’t really have a thymus past a certain age), and this virus is triggering massive overstimulation, dysregulation, exhaustion, accelerated aging.

          This is a very persuasive argument. On risk, sounds like a job for Taleb.

          NOTE Learn something new every day. T cells are called “T” cells because they mature in the thymus. And in totally symmetrical fashion, as is typical in science, B cells are called “B” cells because they were discovered in the far-flung isles of Langorhans the Bursa of Fabricius, an organ only found in birds.

          Reply
          1. fajensen

            In Denmark they are offering a vaccine against seasonal flu for all kids above 3 years old.

            They’re expecting flu season to be bad this year. If we have kid’s with weaker immune systems due to COVID-19 that could be one of the reasons they expect it to be bad.

            Reply
        4. Daniel LaRusso

          is it possible to use the same argument against the vaccine. ?

          Problems with the vaccine may not be visible becasue they are kids

          Probem is it won’t be conclusively proven until 60 years … couldn’t you say that about the vaccine. We’ve no long term studies for any of them.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            This is why IM Doc is not keen on a vaccine in kids since they’ve not been tested.

            I would assume even with a vaccine another issue would be dosing. The point of a vaccine normally is that it taxes the system less that getting an infection. With kids having very robust immune systems, GM’s concern re overstimulation is a real issue and therefore proper dosing would be even more important. I’m already bothered by the “one size fits all” dosing of most pharmaceuticals given the wide variation among weights of adults….you’d think this would be an even bigger issue with kids.

            They might be better candidates for an inactivated virus vaccine….but that is over my pay grade.

            Reply
      2. WhatdoIknow

        I get your logic but I dont know if your sons go to school.
        Life is impossible if you go to school and are not vaccinated.
        My daughter just turned 12 and here in california if she is not vaccinated her schooling will be close to impossible.
        For example, if there is a positive case in her class, non vaccinated kids must quarantine at home for 10 days according to the regulation while vaccinated kids can continue to attend class. After 10 days of quarantine the kid can return to school provided a negative test is provided by the parent which is not free and a nightmare to schedule logistically as the school with 3000 kids doesnt have a testing center on site.
        Furthermore the school doesnt provide any support for kids in quarantine. Its not their problem how your kid keeps up with the programs.
        In the end, you have no choice but to vaccinate your kids, but this stealth coercion will backfire. I got the vaccine myself based on my own risk assessment but having to vaccinate my daughter felt like a complete violation of her and my conscience, and yes I am so angry about the whole thing but what can you do?

        Reply
        1. GM

          She will get it, if not this year, at some point after that, even with the vaccination.

          There should have been no compromise on that on the part of teacher’s unions — either local elimination is achieved, or there is no in-person school.

          No middle ground.

          But they are part of the system too so that was never on the table…

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Slavitt, of all people, got it right and said it. Shut down everything hard for two months (and write people checks). Of course, that was never on the table either. And here we are.

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              I think that eventually, very eventually, as within a decade, that two month hard shut down with checks will happen. Winston Churchill is supposed to have said “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

              Almost our entire social, religious, medical, and governmental elites are not being serious; the current near total emphasis of grifting and image control has supplanted the actually governing, or doing whatever is the function of the organization, or the individual’s job or role is suppose to be.

              The isolating comfort created by our country’s declining, but still vast, wealth along with the destruction of any non-monetary derived power has given the foolish, the greedy, and the uncaring the ability to ignore reality. The entire ideology of Neo-Liberalism could only really be planted and flourish in a society that has great wealth and the ability to isolate the impoverished victims from the prosperous victimizers. This is hard to do with an infectious disease.

              The diseases of the past overrode whatever tendencies to deal unwisely with our national health. My parents and grandparents knew people who suffered, who die because of diseases like smallpox and polio. I knew people who were crippled by polio and then there is my hearing loss. It is harder to make a grift of something that hurt or killed people you know; we are returning at least a little to the world of fifty years ago

              Since COVID is very likely to get more infectious and lethal in the environment we have created for it, the increasing amount of the dead or crippled will include all levels of society. The gamesmanship will eventually be buried under the pandemic’s corpses. So the hard quarantine with checks will come (I hope) when the pain overrides the stupidity. How long that will take, who knows?

              Reply
      3. fajensen

        The thing is, we progress through life like we would cross a swamp, jumping from moss covered stones to grass covered mud as best we can, seeing only a few lumps to land on through the mists.

        Maybe one will get stuck on a rock somewhere or maybe one will land on a muddy one and sink. One cannot tell, one has to Do, with what is available Now. For better or worse, we have to chose what is better Now and then worry about “was this the right choice” Later, when the future arrives.

        I think that the “Grand Reopening Without Fixing Anything” means that we are out of time to speculate about the qualities of the next step and possible options: In 3-4 months the Corona virus will be everywhere and everyone will be exposed to it. The about 1% hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated will crush health care in many places and one does not want to even risk ending up in a Covid-19 ward because only “palliative care” will be available. Like what “happened” in Sweden.

        Reply
      4. Daniel LaRusso

        how will you be effected if you don’t vaccinate them ? Fore example, they say in the GB that the school will not know or care … Rubbish! It takes one school trip/sports tournament/etc … where the organisers and not the school require you to prove their status.

        Don’t parents not vaccinating their children risk stigma, no more play dates etc ?

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          The trade off here is a bit pricey. A happy, “socialized” child with a shorter lifespan, or a longer lived cynic. It is a real choice. Society will be reorganized as a result.
          My main question is; is this the kind of society we want our children to grow up in?

          Reply
  2. Altandmain

    If Biden has staked his credibility on this, I think that there is a high probability that it will backfire.

    There is that typical Professional Managerial Class disdain for the unvaccinated. You can clearly see it in his speech, although he tries to tone in down. It is likely that the nation will be more divided rather than less.

    Lambert, I may have an answer for why paid time off wasn’t mandated several months ago. Most of the PMC are in high paying jobs that get to work from home. The typical wealthy Democrat already has paid time off. They have no understanding of how hourly workers have to deal with forfeiting wages when they already live precariously and are too disdainful to have empathy.

    This is no different than how they take a contemptous view towards those who have lost their careers and in many cases, their lives to free trade.

    Another consideration is that the US government has not inspired trust. It has worked against the well-being of the public and transferred wealth to the rich. This is the type of situation where people trusting their government is critical. Biden is the head of a party that through free trade, the deregulation of Wall Street, and other actions helped create the environment where the US government does not have any moral authority.

    The other big risk is if another variant comes out and the vaccine is entirely rendered ineffective, It will be a much more difficult sell to get the American people to get 2 or more doses of a new vaccine to combat another variant. This could go on for several variants, judging by the rate of mutations.

    I think that yes, this is a very top down approach, and yes, it may fail because of that.

    Reply
    1. GM

      If boosters are started now, a catastrophe in the winter can still be averted.

      If they wait for it another couple months, the US will enter the winter with waning protection while in all likelihood something that will be more immune evasive than current Delta will be circulating.

      And with basically no NPIs and packed stadiums and kid sat schools.

      Question is how many deaths a day can be ignored as something not really newsworthy…

      Reply
      1. Acacia

        I think(?) booster shots become widely available on Sept. 20th in the US.

        How many people get them and how quickly — that’s another question.

        Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > If boosters are started now, a catastrophe in the winter can still be averted.

        Which is what they are trying to do, as Biden makes very clear. (Imagine if Trump had said, in essence, to CDC/FDA: “The political appointees have taken the decision. We need you to sign off. Now hop to it!”)

        To be clear, I think that executive decisions like that should be made by elected representatives. The problem comes when the data is a mess, the science is a mess, the public health establishment is a mess, and the Administration is a mess. It’s not clear transparency could be achieved even it it was wanted.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          We’ve seen this recently in the UK where (unusually) they scientific advisors were hold-outs against under 16 vaccination. Its hard to know exactly what was the reason, but it seems that some of the scientists were disturbed by some of the data (or lack of data) they’d seen on impacts on children.

          But its clear that they’ve been steamrollered now, not just by the politicians, but the rest of the science/public health establishment.

          I’m beginning to think now that in many countries were are seeing the equivelent of the military-industrial complex at work, just in science and health. Its not a conflict between scientists and politicians, its a ‘blob’ for what its worth between the two, making most of the key decisions.

          Reply
          1. Basil Pesto

            interestingly, I have seen some British zero covidites on the twitter advocating strongly for the vaccine for 12-15s on the basis that the risk they’re now susceptible to from the virus is far greater than that of the vaccines. There’s a lot of concern for schoolchildren in the UK at the moment.

            That calculus would presumably be different for, say, New Zealand (unless they are planning to go the “all-in on mass vaccination route” next year as Australia is now)

            Reply
            1. PlutoniumKun

              Yes, I’ve noticed that too. Mind you, some scientists who have called things right from the beginning, like Trisha Greenhaulgh, have also bought into the ‘horse paste’ nonsense, so just because you’ve been right so far about everything doesn’t make you immune to a bad call.

              I honestly don’t know the right answer when it comes to giving the children the vax, the science is above my pay grade, but given the unknowns involved, the correct answer at any one time would seem to be a careful risk balancing depending on local circumstances. As you say, the situation in the UK may have a very different risk profile than that in NZ or China. But what is becoming clear is that vaccinating children is now being pushed as a response to solving problems caused by bad calls made by the ‘experts’ over the past 18 months. It would be nice if they would acknowledge this, but of course this will never, ever, happen.

              Reply
              1. Basil Pesto

                no, of course. I don’t really know what I would do if I had kids that age. As you say, it’s a pretty fraught decision all round. And misjudgement on the part of the parents can lead to resentment from the child later in life (at which point I guess you’d have to reason: it was either risk potential adverse effects of the vaccine, or risk infection with a capricious disease when we still don’t understand what it’s capable of in the long term).

                One wonders how the kids themselves feel about it, or how much say they’ll have in the matter. I don’t know how my 15 year old self feels about that. Of course, generally speaking we don’t like kids making major decisions before reaching age of majority because they fundamentally suck at judging risk. But then, how’s that been working out for the adult population?

                Reply
    2. Brunches with Cats

      “… no understanding of how hourly workers have to deal with forfeiting wages when they already live precariously…”

      Washington State’s get-vaxxed-or-get-fired mandate goes into effect on Oct. 18. The State Department of Transportation responded to employee concerns by posting a helpful FAQ advising them, among other things, to use their sick leave and STAY HOME if they have a reaction to the vaccine or they later test positive, develop symptoms, or have to quarantine due to exposure.

      Q: What if I need to stay home to care for a child whose school is closed and I don’t have any sick or vacation leave left? Or if I need to work reduced hours?
      A: Explore your leave options with your HR leave representatives at 1-855-707-8100 (option 2) and your supervisor. Options may include, teleworking for at least part of the day and using leave time for the rest or using leave without pay.

      There’s no need for empathy when you empower your employees with real solutions to take control of their lives.
      /s

      Reply
      1. Blanchard Hillbilly

        Guaranteeing fully paid sick leave for anyone having a reaction to being vaccinated is a great idea and commonsense, but it also will have very little practical effect as most people resisting vaccination at this point are ideologically dug into their identity/political reasons and won’t be persuaded using carrots. Every one of the unvaccinated people I know is at this point deeply ideologically invested in remaining so, to the point they are willing to torpedo their careers if necessary. Very few remaining on, or even near, the fence.

        Reply
  3. dcrane

    Over at (Steve) Bannons War Room on Rumble the allegation is made that we’re facing a pandemic of the censored, not one the unvaccinated. Dr. Robert Malone and a couple of other doctors are interviewed about the systemic forces being applied to stop doctors from treating covid early and aggressively with a wide range of repurposed drugs and other measures, and to stop the actual transmission of information on the success of such measures via the scientific literature as well as the internet. Note that Malone (who is himself vaccinated) emphasizes that these early treatments are not intended to compete with or replace vaccination, but should be applied alongside vaccination. These doctors claim that many thousands of people have died needlessly because the system would not treat them until they were well advanced in their illnesses.

    I see little from Biden’s speech annotated above to suggest he cares about this.

    https://rumble.com/vmgj15-episode-1257-from-rome-doctors-against-madness.html

    (Yes, you have to ignore the overboard theme song about the CCP that goes with all episodes…)

    Reply
    1. GM

      Dr. Robert Malone and a couple of other doctors are interviewed about the systemic forces being applied to stop doctors from treating covid early and aggressively with a wide range of repurposed drugs and other measures, and to stop the actual transmission of information on the success of such measures via the scientific literature as well as the internet.

      COVID is treated with repurposed drugs right now — dexamethasone and other steroids used to suppress the overstimulated immune system are exactly that.

      Reply
      1. IM Doc

        And they shamed doctors for months for using dexamethasone for COVID. During the big problems in MAR/APR of 2020. In my hospital, we were absolutely forbidden to do so. It is ridiculous – because that is the exact same drug class used in all kinds of sepsis syndromes. But NOPE – did not happen. Until pulmonary/critical care physicians all over the country just started doing it anyway. The success made them back down. A lesson that these overlords are determined not to repeat with any others.

        Reply
        1. GM

          My understanding is that there was a good reason at least for that — people got damaged from being pumped with too much steroids during the SARS-1 epidemic back in 2003 (the post-SARS syndrome is primarily due to the virus, but some aspects of it were because of the steroids too). Thus the reluctance to use them initially.

          Unfortunately, the death toll in the first wave would have been 40% of what it was had they just applied them from the start…

          P.S. This is actually bad news for a different reason — even I myself have on numerous occasions noted that the SARS-1 CFR might be lower today with modern treatment, say, 5%, not 10%. But more recently I realized that we lowered the SARS-2 CFR by going back to the SARS-1 treatment, i.e. SARS-1 was indeed that bad. Which is not good news for the future, if SARS-2 keeps evolving towards higher virulence — there is plenty of room for that in the evolutionary space…

          Reply
          1. Mac’s mom

            Look at the stats for India, after utilizing Ivermectin, dosed for humans. Their death/illness rates have plummeted!!

            Remember a few months back all the TRAGIC news about India? But now that the Ivermectin treatments have worked, SUDDENLY, India is not in the headlines anymore!!

            Reply
      2. dcrane

        Some of the drugs that they emphasize appear to help by preventing the patient getting to the extreme inflammation phase.

        A key to surviving covid is early detection followed by quick treatment. And the speakers in the video emphasize that this goes for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

        Reply
      3. urblintz

        In this long and thorough interview, virologist Vincent Racaniello (Columbia University) talks briefly about a friend of his in New Jersey who contracted covid, went to his local hospital and, using the hospital’s standard regimen, was treated with dexamethasone, remdesivir and ivermectin.

        I was surprised to hear that (around the 2’32” mark).

        I found this discussion, especially after the 2 hour mark, to be excellent.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G433fa01oMU

        Reply
    2. Aumua

      You mean Steve Bannon, the fascist? Oh well I’m sure that when the censorshit is pointed at people and ideas he would like to see silenced then he’ll quickly forget his righteous fervor for free speech.

      Reply
      1. dcrane

        Ad hominem is not an argument. Bannon interviews the subjects, who were all reasonable people.

        And fwiw I see seeds of fascism in the coordinated authoritarian moves by governments and the private sector over this.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > seeds of fascism

          I think there are fascist seeds all over the environment, in terms of the zeitgeist and methods of problem solving. It’s a bad mistake to think that only one party is capable of fascism. Now, Paxton urges, and I agree, that fascism when rooted flowers in the from of a “mass-based party of committed nationalist militants”, and we are not there yet — the Capitol rioters are nowhere close — but the seeds are there, wherever one looks.

          Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > CCP

      The Chinese Communist Party? Surely not.

      We know, and Biden admits, that “the vaccinated” transmit. We know, and Biden admits, that there are breakthrough cases.

      So to dismiss and suppress treatment is demented.

      Even “the vaccinated” may need it! People who are not demented — and I freely admit that some non- and/or anti-vaxxers are demented — should not be blamed for seeking treatment options! And it’s exactly because the Norms Fairy has closed off all the conventional avenues of research that alternative paths have been broken.

      And frankly, the sudden focus on (no doubt much more expensive) on monoclonal antibodies makes me think alternative treatments have Big Pharma running a little scared. All the whinging about studies on IVM, and the studies for monoclonal antibodies aren’t exactly the strongest.

      Reply
  4. IM Doc

    A primary care office can at times be a gauge for the nation.

    Based on what has already been yelled at me on Friday and now today, this has already failed. This has made many Dems in my practice absolutely furious. I cannot remember a political speech that has garnered as much discussion in my office – but pretty much everyone was talking about it – and not in a good way.

    I really get the idea that the only groups where this is finding favor are the very small Twitter mob, some of the more vocal millenial liberal groups, and the news media. My older than 40 crowd, liberal or conservative, have recoiled in disdain. Especially those alive during the polio and smallpox vaccine efforts.

    An elderly Dem asked me today – paraphrased – “Can you point to any time when Eisenhower, Kennedy, or LBJ threatened every worker in America with being fired during polio/smallpox? No you cannot – because they did not. They kept it positive. They made it popular. They turned it into a civic duty. They criticized no one. And the undermining of governors in the way he did – just forget about it……He is really not the paragon of virtue to do this anyway.” And that man is a big Dem donor and a former Dem officeholder.

    My initial impression is that this is not going well with a huge chunk of the American people – especially older ones – and uniquely very unpopular with Blacks and Latinos.

    Reply
    1. lambert strether

      > They kept it positive. They made it popular. They turned it into a civic duty

      Biden left it far, far too late to do that. The persuading would have had to start in January. The PMC, being already persuaded, failed to see this (and may have thought the deplorables unpersuadable anyhow, in which case coercion was baked in from the start).

      A public health debacle of stunning proportions. Biden now owns his own peak 100%, along with the deaths, and it was avoidable (certainly the ownership, and probably the peak).

      Reply
      1. KLG

        I remember my family going through the line in the cafeteria (where the lunchroom ladies cooked real food every day, three times a week the entire school smelled like a bakery baking yeast rolls from scratch) at my elementary school when I was in the second grade. Each one of us got a sugar cube with what I remember to be a blue or purple spot on it…my first memory of a community come together, all to take he Sabin vaccine at not cost at point of delivery. A good use of our tax dollars? Yes, indeed.

        From my unpublished Citizen’s Guide to mRNA Vaccines (January 2021):

        While the science that has led to these mRNA vaccines is not experimental, the patent experimental nature of both SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines has not been discussed, very much, in public. If either mRNA vaccine turns out to be ineffective* or, worse, harmful, the backlash will be severe. After the rollout of the Salk vaccine in 1955, problems with manufacture led to several hundred cases of polio because a batch of killed virus was contaminated with live virus. The response to that mostly localized catastrophe was rapid. The production error was identified and corrected immediately and mostly transparently. Jonas Salk did not hide. Vaccinations were continued after a brief pause, and by 1957 cases of polio were down 90% from those reported in 1952. By 1961 polio cases were down by 97%. 430,000 children in Denmark were vaccinated and none developed polio. The polio vaccine was “new” but not at all experimental by the time widespread vaccination began. During the current pandemic, citizens of the world have been asked repeatedly to “trust the science.” Yes. But trustees of science, including politicians, practicing scientists and physicians, and scientist-administrators at NIH/FDA/CDC and their counterparts in other nations, must at all times be careful, especially when working rapidly and under great pressure, to not oversell what can be done as what must be done. These mRNA vaccines are commercial products projected to return billions of dollars to their manufacturers in the very near term (>$30 billion to Pfizer last time I looked during the summer of 2021). Eli Lilly received about $320 million, adjusted for inflation, in the first year of the Salk vaccine. A fair price.

        Finally, it must be noted that these vaccines are a hurried technical fix for a problem that does not necessarily have to exist. COVID-19 is the third serious coronavirus outbreak since 2002. The zoonotic transmission of coronaviruses from animals to humans is well known if not completely understood. As has been noted by many, there was every reason to expect another coronavirus outbreak, one that could be worse than SARS or MERS. So far, SARS-CoV-2 is the agent of a worldwide pandemic, and new mutations that make the virus more transmissible and/or virulent have been identified. Given the apparent unpredictability of the course of a coronavirus infection (the sniffles of a common cold, enduring widespread organ damage, death) there is no good reason that coronaviruses have not been a “hot topic” in biomedical research for the past 20 years. According to the PubMed database maintained by NIH/National Library of Medicine, from 1949 through 2020 there have been 78,176 scientific publications that contain the query “coronavirus” (for comparison, 27,190 publications about “polio” from 1879 to 2021 are in the database; “cancer”: 4,253,146 from 1783-2021). 81.4% (63,691) of these “coronavirus” papers were published in 2019 and 2020. That is an astonishing fact by any measure, but it probably says more about the various businesses of scientific publishing than the scientific response to COVID-19. Still, this response is too little, too late. If we are to meet the challenge of COVID-19, and any number of others that are just as predictable based on what we already know about the world and our place in it, we must do better!

        * These commercial products are not ineffective on one level, but all you have to do to gauge this is compare and contrast the CDC definition of vaccine in July with that in September (a link here a few days ago).

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Given the apparent unpredictability of the course of a coronavirus infection (the sniffles of a common cold, enduring widespread organ damage, death) there is no good reason that coronaviruses have not been a “hot topic” in biomedical research for the past 20 years.

          Unless you think that funding isn’t a “good reason.” It looks to me like the capital allocation decisions in medicine are just as demented as they are in society generally. What have we gotten for all that Fed money sloshing around? Uber! Robot cars! New ways of distributing porn on the Internet!

          Reply
      2. Carolinian

        Biden now owns his own peak 100%

        What makes you so sure this is a peak and there’s not some giant disaster waiting in the wings?

        My personal view (and that of some others) is that every adult was certainly entitled to decide to get the vaccine but the authorities should have recommended it for the most vulnerable only. To me the president commanding 100 million people to take an experimental drug doesn’t pass the sanity test.

        Not that my medical opinion is worth anything. But I have not gotten the vaccine and don’t plan to do so. I’m also extremely careful about not getting covid or giving it to others,.But should I get sick it was my choice and my consequences.

        Whereas If Biden forces people to get the vaccine then he owns the consequences. And a lot of people are not going to do it regardless. A couple of hundred thousand military who have had covid have just sued to stop this on the basis that the order violates their military rules about forcing vaccines on those with existing immunity.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What makes you so sure this is a peak and there’s not some giant disaster waiting in the wings?

          I’m not sure. Who can be? What I wrote:

          It now appears Biden spoke near the last peak (which the chart above shows). Never mind that Biden owns that peak

          The fact that Biden owns this peak doesn’t mean there can’t be others, which Biden will also own. Look back at the chart. There were two “steps” on the way to the Everest of January. We could end up with a similar pattern this time around, driven by back-to-school and abandonment of NPIs. But we don’t and can’t know.

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            IMO the problem with Biden’s speech is that he gave it at all. Nobody is going to blame a politician for not being a scientist or a doctor but they are going to blame him for pretending to be one. Instead of listening to doctors he’s ordering them what to do. So yes, since our discussion here is about the politics, they are going to blame him for being a megalomaniac and I think in the long run this will be a disaster to go with Afghanistan–politically.

            Reply
    2. Laura in So Cal

      I’m so very angry about this. We had covid already in Spring 2020 including my teenage son. My husband and I are getting ready to retire so we’ll just wait to get fired from our jobs. But I refuse to vaccinate my kid with a vaccine that has no long term studies and comes with side effects ( cardiac adverse events) that are more likely to cause hospitalization that covid itself per the just published University of California study. Note that my kid has all the mandated vaccines. I did some checking on the last vaccine added to the California requirements for school. The Varicella was licensed and available in the United States for 5 years before it was mandated.
      I’m not sure what we’ll do if our district tries to mandates it. We’ll fight it for sure.

      What makes this even worse is that the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission. My Dad is sick and covid positive even though he was fully vaccinated.

      Reply
    3. TBellT

      If this really was the widespread case I would expect Gavin Newsome’s recall to be faring better, since he pioneered the idea of vaccine mandates. I don’t buy that these anecdotes are reflective of liberals at large, I’ll wait until I see more evidence.

      Reply
      1. coboarts

        The California recall is a clown show – not a real CA issue in sight – but our current political system is a clown show – not a real national issue in sight – and our shiny new world order is run by those same clowns. If we ever hope to get back into some kind of democratic political discourse about steering this ship of state, then we need to speak to specifics and plans and accountability for results, not beauty contests.

        Reply
        1. TBellT

          Except there was an issue, it was mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and lockdowns. That was the driving force behind the signature campaign and a key speech item of Elder.

          If reliable “Team Blue” voters were getting tired of those things I would imagine recall would be doing better?

          Reply
  5. Even keel

    Your link on footnote 2, paragraph 16, explains lack of bed capacity almost as a function of governmental planning.

    Anecdote: the very day my office closed last spring for the pandemic, I looked at the headline of a recent Portland business journal. It was ranking the “best” hospitals in Oregon. Using various numerical metrics to come to a single overall ranking. One key metric was bed usage rate. You see, the better ranked hospitals eliminated spare capacity, because that was essentially product they had to pay to produce but did not pay for.

    These hospitals are not quite “for profit” but they had been run as closely as they could be to that model.

    In other words: low hospital “beds” (the physical infrastructure” per capita are mainly due to executive decisions within companies, which, I would posit, are mainly due to for-profit thinking filling up their executive suites.

    This happens even to, and perhaps particularly at, secularizing institutions. The change in culture has left uneconomical values “exposed.”

    Ps- now back to reading through. This is a wonderful way to set up a post. Thanks for it!

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      It is a function of governmental planning. New York State went into the pandemic with a relatively low # of hospital beds because then then sainted Governor Cuomo had made it a priority to reduce the number of hospital beds statewide.

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      This is a very common problem throughout health systems – managers definition of ‘efficiency’ ensuring the elimination of neccessary slack.

      It was more than a decade ago, but I recall a family member who is an IT/management consultant talking approvingly about a hospital that had entirely eliminated its need for its store warehouse thanks to its new, super efficient just-in-time supply management system. I really wish it had occurred to me at the time to ask what that meant for all of us if an emergency disrupted the supply chains. This of course happened in the first months of the pandemic, but everyone seems to have forgotten that lesson already.

      Reply
  6. jo6pac

    I really like what he had to say and I think your wrong Lambert he is trying to do good job or at lest he didn’t bring up stop using that stuff that will kill you that’s for animals. OMD no wonder were a failed nation;-)

    Reply
  7. SteveD

    Excellent writeup Lambert. Agree that Thanksgiving is the target – Biden very clearly is hoping to have a “It’s time to travel and be with relatives!” Moment in early November. Seems optimistic.

    Reply
  8. Sgt Fury

    I am a 100% disabled veteran. I work for VA, the only place I’ve been able to find stable employment. In 75 days I’ll be out of a job and facing homelessness. Oh the irony. Thanks Obama!

    Reply
    1. Objective Ace

      Looks like there will be a period of “counselling” after the 75 days. Then possible firings. 75 days is a lot of time, who the heck knows what could happen. Just 3 weeks ago there was an entirely different mandate with different rules in place for federal workers (arguably better rules that included testing, but of course there were complaints that testing cost too much money)

      Reply
      1. saywhat?

        75 days is a lot of time, who the heck knows what could happen.

        I second that since the case for vaccinating everyone with the current vaccines, willy-nilly, appears to be growing weaker and more dangerous every day.

        Reply
  9. The Rev Kev

    Thanks for this breakdown of his speech, Lambert. First two quick questions. At the end of his speech when he said ‘Get vaccinated’, did he do it in his signature stage-whisper like when he stage-whispers ‘we are going to have to cut social security’? And where you said [This paragraph intentionally left blank.], was that Biden having a grandpa moment?

    So I see two themes running through his speech. The first is he is betting the house on vaccines. Forget masks, forget social-distancing, etc., just everybody has to get a vaccine. And I suspect that the reason why is the weakness of the Professional Managerial Class – it is measurable. Having people wear masks and other social measures is a bit fuzzy to get a handle on. But with vaccines, it is easy. You can put that info into an Excel chart as in ‘unvaccinated’, ‘first shot’ & ‘second shot’. And of course a new row soon called ‘booster shot’. You can analyze those hard figures, play with them, break them down by region, age group, etc. – all the sorts of things that managers love to do. Mask-wearing? How do you measure that? Dunno. This PMC viewpoint is also why he did not thank all the doctors, nurses, first responders, etc in his speech like he should have. Managers want it to be all about them and not to share the credit.

    The second theme is that he has decided to go full divisive. He has set up those unvaccinated to be the fall-guy for all that goes wrong with America dealing with the pandemic. If things blow up, it is not the fault of Biden and his regime – it is all the fault of the unvaccinated. The pandemic is still raging next year? It is all their fault. A new variant turns up that blows past these vaccines? It is still the fault of the unvaccinated. It is a signal and a blank cheque to turn loose the attack dogs on them by all right-thinking people. They are to be trolled and harassed and are to be banned from restaurants, parks, gas stations until they get vaccinated. You could never call Biden a Unity President. And when he says his plan plan is ‘protecting our economic recovery’ you wonder whose economy he is actually talking about. But keeping the schools open will only ensure that the pandemic still spreads as they will be the new vector for virus spread. Suffer the little children indeed.

    As for why all this was not done back in January or July, it is simple. They never had a plan going into government. I have made the point before that even though the US was in the middle of a world-wide pandemic last year with bodies stacking up, there was no task force set up to work out what to do before he went into the Presidency as he had task forces set up for other matters. Think about that. The pandemic undermined the Trump Presidency and without it, Trump would probably still be President. But yet it was not thought worthy enough a subject to form a distinct task force by Biden and the Democrats. That is willful blindness that. ‘Nuff said.

    Reply
    1. fajensen

      They never had a plan going into government.

      They are neoliberals, distilled to 99.99% purity, they don’t need direction or planning: Markets will give them direction and Markets will give them Solutions.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > And where you said [This paragraph intentionally left blank.], was that Biden having a grandpa moment?

      No. Made a mistake in the numbering I discovered too late, and I wasn’t going to redo everything from (7) onward. Biden’s “grandpa moment” happens three-quarters of the way through; see (69)[1].

      > there was no task force set up to work out what to do before he went into the Presidency as he had task forces set up for other matters

      I’m not sure about that; see STAT here. I believe the thinking was that Mr. Ebola, Ron Klain, was tapped as Biden’s chief-of-staff exactly because of his presumed expertise in managing pandemics. Either Klain was over-rated, or he couldn’t manage Biden (meaning he was over-rated in a different way).

      Reply
      1. Big River Bandido

        Made a mistake in the numbering I discovered too late, and I wasn’t going to redo everything from (7) onward.

        Thank you for this explanation and for the chuckle. I prefer to read stuff and I didn’t hear the speech. So when I got to Paragraph 7, I had that head-scratching moment…”wow, did the old man actually read that?”

        Reply
    3. Basil Pesto

      Forget masks

      He specifically addresses the importance of masks though. Arguably not as much as he should, and arguably any serious state would be ponying up the KN95/N95/P2 masks for free to all citizens, but he clearly hasn’t forgotten masks.

      I’ve mentioned this before but, ironically (and, frankly, embarrassingly), the US CDC’s guidance for the public on masks is currently far superior to Australia’s, despite
      many of us being under a mask mandate of Potemkin-level robustness, with case numbers accelerating accordingly.

      Reply
    4. Daniel LaRusso

      If someone has the first shot and seond shot I believe they are considered ‘vaccinated’. But what if I don’t get the third shot ? Do I then become unvaccinated ?? How long do I get to get my booster before I becom ‘unvaccinated’?

      Reply
  10. Juneau

    Excellent analysis. On the point of “at home testing”, I have seen (at my local pharmacies) and have heard from others that the cheapest at home test made by Abbott is pretty much gone from the shelves (previously selling at 2 tests for 24 dollars). The more available test (by Abbott) is twice as expensive and requires registration to run the test. That way everyone who needs to know gets your results electronically. The results can also be sent to your employer or your app. That isn’t cheaper and easier access in my book. Are other people seeing this with the at home test kits in their pharmacies?

    At home testing appears to be more expensive than ever and the results are being reported rather than kept private. What a good business to be in now that tests are being mandated.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > What a good business to be in now that tests are being mandated

      Yep.

      The results should end up at CDC, otherwise we have no idea what the numbers are. One would assume the data would be suitably anonymized and not go anywhere else, because anything else creates incentives not to take the test or to game it.

      Wellie… somebody needs to make book on when the story breaks that personal data was kept and is being sold. And on when the first breach occurs.

      Reply
  11. Alex Cox

    My vaccination card has at least four spaces on it. Only two are filled so far. So one might assume that the need for booster shots was known back when the cards were printed.

    Thank you Lambert for this splendid breakdown, and for flagging the hospital capacity issue. All of us continue pouring money into the insurance pit, regardless of the impossibility of getting treated.

    Reply
    1. GM

      Another feature of the CDC vaccination cards is also explained if they knew these vaccines will be transient — it is not an actual document. It has no barcodes, it is easy to fake, it is not entered into any central database, etc.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        Private companies now claiming they “verify” the vaccination (how pray tell? Publix tripped all over itself when in vaccinated my mother, our aide, and me; I sincerely doubt they retained records since none of us have done anything at the Publix pharmacy before or since). Then they want a good photo for biometric ID. Oh and of course you have the record on your smartphone. So two unacceptable elements (on top of the coercion): biometric IDs and smart phone ownership.

        Reply
  12. ptb

    “I’ll use the Defense Production Act[2] to increase production of rapid tests, including those that you can use at home.”

    Cha-ching! The magic words everyone in this particular supply chain was waiting for.

    Reply
  13. George Phillies

    What did you miss in this stupendous feat of careful analysis?

    Biden fibs about the size of the opposition.

    “Nearly three quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any. That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated.” If this is true, there are 320 million (4×80) million eligibles. America only has 330 million or so people.

    CDC says: The agency said 209,437,152 people had received at least one dose while 178,692,875 people are fully vaccinated as of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday.

    The unvaccinated are half as many as the vaccinated, or a third of the total, and 2/5 as many as the full or partly vaccinated, or 2/7 of the total. But ‘a quarter’ makes them sound to be more greatly outnumbered.

    Reply
    1. Jeff

      The numbers are being pulled from Joe’s rear end. No discussion on natural immunity? The stupidity is astounding. What happened to “Follow the science”.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > No discussion on natural immunity?

        I added something on natural immunity at (55)[3]. Topol recently said something to the effect that natural immunity should be factored into (IIRC) booster policy, but I’m damned if I can find it.

        Reply
        1. Lee

          How will they determine immune status since antibodies wane after vaccination or natural infection and continuing protective immune response resides, or doesn’t, in memory cells. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that this cannot be reliably measured.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > this cannot be reliably measured

            No, I don’t believe it can. So from beginning to end, rotten data.

            All, all of a piece throughout;
            Thy chase had a beast in view;
            Thy wars brought nothing about;
            Thy lovers were all untrue.
            ‘Tis well an old age is out,
            And time to begin a new.

            (John Dryden)

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith

              No, immunity from antibodies v. vaccines CAN be determined (or at least from the US vaccines as opposed to an inactivated virus vaccine). But it’s a different part of the protein than most of the antibody tests look at.

              Reply
      1. Questa Nota

        I hope that there are English teachers and many others who will use your annotations document to show students and many others what is being said or not said.

        Reply
  14. David H.

    Didn’t President Biden say, “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations?” So I now understand that statement to be called an exaggeration (PolitiFact). I call it a lie. You get to lie once to me. After that, I don’t trust you, so no vaccination for me. And what happened to “my body, my choice”? Feel free to pile on.

    Reply
    1. Arakawa

      Your reaction, regardless whether right or wrong, was eminently predictable when they decided to go for overhyping this product ‘for the greater good’ to get the rollout started faster. So my assumption is that a fraction of the population was expected to be turned off and left unvaccinated to act as a handy scapegoat class. Only, the people driving the rollout thought their divine ‘nudge’ marketing skills would allow them to salami slice their way to 90% vaccination rates. Which is why the playbook they’re locked into seems to consist of techniques geared towards scapegoating a far smaller percentage of the population. Applying these same techniques to Biden’s estimated 80 million deplorables, plus whoever doesn’t want the booster, seems like it will have volatile results.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Your reaction, regardless whether right or wrong, was eminently predictable when they decided to go for overhyping this product ‘for the greater good’ to get the rollout started faster

        As this article I keep linking urges, this behavior is typical for the public health establishment. It is embedded in their culture, and has been for many years. So everything’s going according to plan.

        The issue seems to be that it doesn’t scale to a global pandemic, though damned if they won’t try.

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  15. Randy

    The speech/harangue was disgusting and mandating a non-sterilizing, open-ended vaccine regiment with no long term studies is ofious and an obvious violation of the Nuremburg Code. Yet you’re going to examine and pick through the entrails? This is the hill many are willing to die on and the Biden administration is playing with fire here.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Yet you’re going to examine and pick through the entrails?

      Yes, that’s what working from evidence is all about. If you find that burdensome or annoying, do feel free to seek out a more congenial environment.

      Reply
  16. Tom Stone

    Every MLB game is a superspreader event, every NFL and College Football game is a superspreader event, every ….
    I don’t think we’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving to see the result.
    And this speech…my powers of invective are insufficient to convey my disgust.
    .

    Reply
  17. Brunches with Cats

    Re: (27)[1], straight from the mouth of one of the 80 million, blasting Biden for not understand that “freedom is everything.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhEcGGtD7Pw&list=PLtvXS1geOzgXLUK8Iwn-h6zRoSkHO5nVd&index=4
    Not a banjo in sight in Bubba’s tidy office, where he’s working from home as a biologist for the Washington Department of Transportation — a job he’s held for 15 years and from which he’ll be fired in a few weeks for noncompliance with the governor’s get-vaxxed-or-get-fired proclamation. The title of the video, “Internment Camps,” comes from a letter to the editor of the Yakima Herald blaming the unvaccinated for the unabated pandemic. He reads the whole thing and then makes a few observations that could have come straight from NC links and comments. Or as Lambert likes to say, “He’s not entirely wrong.”

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “freedom is everything.”

      No, it’s not. You can’t have a notion of public health while taking that view (or, indeed, a notion of the public at all). It’s exactly like Maggie Thatcher: “[T]here’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” I think that view is borderline sociopathic — or, to put it another way, neoliberal — and I have no sympathy for it whatever. It’s pernicious.

      Reply
      1. m

        There is no public health in the USA. Pharma bought our politicians. Gates Foundation brought health agencies, media and god knows what else. Fauci and who knows how many others have financial interests in the treatments they push.
        If this were LaLaLand I may buy the public health stuff, but this is the USA. Money & profits make the rules and we must believe they have our best interest at heart. Just look at all the other great things they have done over the past few decades while dementia Joe has been a politician.
        This is coming from the trenches, covid units are full of vaccinated covid + patients.

        Reply
      2. Daniel LaRusso

        so you think there is merit to force everyone to take the vaccine ? And those that don’t go where ?

        Surely we want a balance of public health versus freedoms. If the pendulum swings too far in either direction we’ve got a tyranny (even a tyranny of the individualist).

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > so you think there is merit to force everyone to take the vaccine ?

          Well, if getting the population to X% vaccinated were the only way out of a global pandemic, isn’t that merit? In terms of real options, it makes no difference that the Biden administration and the public health establishment systematically slammed every door to other options. As GM says above:

          If boosters are started now, a catastrophe in the winter can still be averted.

          That’s a very ugly choice. I still think a public health campaign that started in January could have avoided today’s resort to force. But you go to war with the PMC you have…

          NOTE Adding, it’s a lot like when Reverend Mother Mohiam puts Paul’s hand in the pain box to test his humanity, and says that only an animal would chew off a leg to escape a trap. But suppose chewing off one’s leg saved a planet’s population. Is it better to be a human (“freedom!”) or an animal?

          Reply
  18. Brunches with Cats

    Standing ovation for the author, who heads into the Augean stables without his yellow waders (I’d have chosen a hazmat suit) and emerges clean as the rosy fingers of dawn.

    Reply
      1. sporble

        From my years of reading here, I concur – and I thank you for doing it and sharing your results & reflections.

        A potential new category for the upcoming fundraiser:
        YELLOW WADER CLEANING FUND?

        Reply
  19. Henry Moon Pie

    Thanks for the excellent point-by-point analysis.

    When I stand back and take a look at the speech and its plan, what I see is “let ‘er rip” but keep the hospitals from being overcrowded. And the latter point is probably more from a concern about hospital profitability than the deaths of those untreated because of the overcrowding.

    Lying behind this is the very fervent hope that a variant doesn’t develop that works its way around the vaccinations and causes hospitalization among the vaccinated breakthroughs at a higher rate than Delta.

    Reply
  20. Eustachedesaintpierre

    You are on fire Lambert – it somehow all reminds me of this from that other delightful Donald.

    “There are known knowns, things we know that we know; and there are known unknowns, things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns, things we do not know we don’t know.”

    Aw shucks, just knock another nail in.

    Reply
  21. Anon

    About the requirement that all nursing home workers whose patients receive Medicare and Medicaid must be vaccinated: Medicare doesn’t cover nursing home care. Medicaid does. It covers the poorest patients. You know, the expendable ones. These are the patients who will be harmed by this mandate. Nursing homes suffer from chronic understaffing. This was true 20-plus years ago and is even more true today because of Covid. Nursing homes can’t find or keep staff. The nursing home workers most impacted by the vaccine mandate will not be nurses. Few nurses actually work in nursing homes. The majority of nursing home care is provided by CNAs (certified aides). It is not surprising that nursing home nurses and CNAs are unvaccinated. They see on a daily basis (this was true long before Covid) the results of prescribed medical treatments that harm and sometimes kill their patients. How many times has a nursing home nurse had to carefully intervene to prevent a patient from receiving a medication or treatment wrongly prescribed by a nursing home doctor who doesn’t give a (family blogging) about his/her patients? Daily! Doctors who treat patients in nursing homes are often the worst doctors in town. Most would have been barred from practicing long ago if they had not found a cozy hideaway treating nursing home patients. Heck, these patients are at death’s door anyway! Who is going to notice a little malpractice? Rarely do nursing home workers “trust the science”, the very science that harms patients they treat every day. The best nursing home workers seldom stay in their jobs very long. The daily malpractice that goes on in these facilities is too much for them to tolerate. They get out of these jobs as soon as possible. Again, this was true long before Covid. The vaccine mandate will make the chronic understaffing of nursing homes even worse. Patients will suffer.

    Reply
      1. Anon

        The use of anti-psychotic meds to “calm” nursing home patients who are not psychotic has been going on for decades. A more recent development: Fentanyl prescriptions (especially in combination with other meds) hastening the deaths of nursing home patients. It is not difficult to fill their beds after they are gone. Another problem: patients having their pain medications stolen by nursing home workers who are addicted to them. All of this is criminal. Nursing home administrations are well aware of what is going on.

        Reply
    1. Eric377

      While it is true that Medicaid is the payment stream for care homes, it is pretty hard to find any that do not have some revenue from Medicaid. There is a major consulting industry for children to understand how to present their aging parents as qualifying for Medicaid. Bill Gates won’t likely ever qualify, but very prosperous people often do and legitimately so….”here are the rules and here is how you get them to qualify.” So even quite expensive care homes will have patients on Medicaid but where their wealth has been rearranged to directly pay another large amount. Very common actually, although I agree that the staffing at care homes that are extremely reliant on Medicaid are often less qualified. But those really nice places with good doctors and nurses still probably have Medicaid funds coming in.

      Reply
  22. Louis Fyne

    my anecdote from last night, so obviously YMMV….

    a younger sibling of one of my mother’s best friends is 60. The sibling got vaccinated with the Pfizer shot, and within days she was hospitalized with paralysis. Now it has been 3 months since the vaccination and no progress.

    Extremely bad timing or a rare side effect of the shot is that it leads to paralysis? No one knows yet.

    I still got my shots as IMO my odds of caught bad long-Covid was higher than getting a bad side effect.

    I got the Pfizer shots, so did siblings and my in-laws. We’re fine.

    But I’ve always agreed with everything IMDoc has written since his/her day 1 of posts. I remember Vioxx, and a host of other drugs, I know that the FDA is 100% regulatory captured, and my suspicion is that the media is influenced by all that pharma advert money.

    And the longer covid drags on, I bet more and more people are going to second-hand stories like mine and get anti-pharma radicalized. Biden and the DC Dems have chosen their proverbial hill to politically die on. See you at the voting booth.

    Reply
  23. Alexis

    Thanks to Lambert for this hip-wader deep dive in Biden’s address.

    I’ve been quite pleasantly surprised on occasion by Biden’s actions in office, mostly down to having the expectation bar set so low by his history. Reading NC has done a lot for me in that regard as well. It’s not that I’m in agreement with Biden as much as I had been conditioned by both his past and the withering NC coverage of the primary battle to expect a *lot* worse than what I’ve seen. I expected Obama/Clinton-level ****ery, and it hasn’t been anything close to that, it’s been significantly better.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I too have been surprised by Biden’s not-that-badness. He’s certainly better than Obama. That said, the question is whether Biden is good enough; can he — and the Party he leads — meet the time, rise to the occassion, as FDR most certainly did. There, I feel the answer is no.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the DemParty had wanted that, they would have engineered a Sanders/ Gabbard ticket. But that was what they wanted to prevent.

        Reply
  24. Eric377

    An in-laws firm had a very brief discussion at a staff meeting yesterday. Think 30% to 40% of employees are unvaccinated. Production departments need 15-20 more workers and competitive firms nearby also need workers. Firing people seems not possible so they will likely test, but not sure of costs. They have tentatively rejected incentives as they expect that once they do so, the 60% to 70% who already are vaccinated for sure will demand them and unsure impact on the unvaccinated…..like pay out to 70% of all employees and maybe get 5% more vaccinated, which is not very efficient. Finally, a vaccinated manager spoke up and said that if they test, she wants to test since she has young children. Essentially views it from her perspective as an employee benefit program.

    Reply

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