On the surface, President Joe Biden’s national address on the surging Omicron variant is about a plea and a plan – pushing people to protect themselves and outlining his efforts to expand testing, shore up hospitals and march ahead with an aggressive vaccination campaign.
During Biden’s speech Tuesday, he stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and receiving a booster as the new, highly transmissible coronavirus variant spreads across the United States.
Omicron has become the dominant variant in the U.S. since the first case was detected in California on December 2. It’s since spread to nearly all 50 states and threatens to overwhelm hospitals this winter.
During Biden’s speech, he called out 1000 military medical professionals to the viral barricades. Biden urged Americans to straddle that line between caution and panic, and tells them, by the way, try to enjoy the holidays.
“We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panic,” Biden said, flanked by Christmas trees in a midday White House address. He reminded Americans we have more tools to manage the virus, particularly if everyone pitches in, which would mean no shutdowns for schools and businesses.
A reporter asked the President if West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin had broken his word by announcing he would oppose the plan in its current form.
“I’ve told you before that some people think maybe I’m not Irish because I don’t hold a grudge. Look, I want to get things done. I still think there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done,” Biden answered.
“You saw what happened yesterday. All the talk about how my Build back Better plan was going to increase inflation, cause debts and all the like,” Biden added. “Goldman Sachs and others said if we don’t pass Build Back Better, we’re in trouble because it’s going to grow the economy. And what happened? Stock prices went way down.”
Biden also talked about the middle class and working-class people being worried about increasing inflation. Saying that his plan would decrease the cost of childcare and medical costs for children, the president grew emotional.
Doug Evans, who runs a graduate program in public health communication at George Washington University’s School of Public Health, noted that even if Biden doesn’t break through to many Republicans, he’s also got to reassure those independents and Democrats “who are somewhat disillusioned with how things are going.”
Sure, Biden wants more people to get vaccinated. That’s essential, here and abroad, over the long run. Public health officials are particularly eager for parents who have themselves been vaccinated to become more confident about immunizing their kids and teens, who have become eligible more recently.
“Omicron is the variant of the day,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said in an email.” But it’s the next one and the next one we need to prepare for. Vaccination is the single best hope we have to live with an endemic virus.”