Criticism on Biden’s COVID statement is unwarrantedOct 31, 2022 09:49AM ● By Bryan Gray
President Biden can’t get a break, even when it comes to what the public says is his greatest success.
Almost every survey shows Americans approving of the President’s handling of the pandemic. They may blame him or rate him lackluster when it comes to inflation, immigration, or our disastrous flight from Afghanistan, but he generally gets High Fives if you mention COVID.
But now in our partisan political environment, the slings and arrows are out for his recent remark that “the pandemic is over.” In context, he also noted that “we have a lot of work to do on COVID” but appeared to agree with most Americans that, much like the annual flu, we’ll have to learn to cope with the virus. But that didn’t stop the criticism.
On the progressive/liberal side, a health expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation complained that Biden “lacks leadership”; a director of a health preparedness center said it was an “unfortunate sound bite”; a Westminster college professor criticized him, arguing that we may well have to return to masking and online schooling; and a BYU professor complained that Biden’s comments “make it harder to communicate what Americans need to keep themselves as healthy as possible.”
And a few conservative Republicans jibed him as well. Notably, right-wing columnist and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who thinks the U.S. should sit back and let Putin take over other countries, said that the President is not “protecting and defending the people” since more than 400 Americans were still dying daily, “a death rate higher than World War II.”
Let’s be honest. For the vast majority of us, Biden is correct. The pandemic is over. Granted, only 30% of Utahns have received even one booster shot and more than one-third have not been vaccinated period, but critics are only kidding themselves if they believe we’ll go back to hoarding toilet paper and donning masks. From what we learned about achievement losses in our public school, we are not going back to Zoom classrooms either. And if you think we’ll play NBA games in a non-attendance “bubble,” there is a mental health facility nearby.
We should feel the President’s optimism. Yes, the case count in Utah surges periodically and COVID is still mentioned in the obituaries, but the vaccines have led us to reopen shopping malls, restore waiting lines at restaurants, and allowed us to celebrate events with our families. There are (and will continue to be) deaths from the virus, but our hospitals are no longer turning away patients due to “no vacancy” signs in the ICU.
A professor may think it is “premature” to say that the pandemic is over, but America has already made its decision. We can take precautions, but we can no longer live in fear even from real health threats; we must accept health risks as a component of being human. We are not going to shut down our economy or our schools.
Instead of criticizing Biden’s “pandemic is over” statement, we should thank him for reflecting reality. “Thank you for saying what we already knew.”
Bryan Gray, a long-time Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.λ