Biden’s Speech on Covid Vaccine Mandates, Annotated

by nyljaouadi1
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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) [1] [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.) . 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] , 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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