Analysis: Delta variant upends politicians' COVID calculus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration drew up a strategy to contain one coronavirus strain, then another showed up that’s much more contagious.
This week — a month late — Biden met his goal of 70% of U.S. adults having received at least one COVID-19 shot. Originally conceived as an affirmation of American resiliency to coincide with Independence Day, the belated milestone offered little to celebrate. Driven by the delta variant, new cases are averaging more than 70,000 a day, above the peak last summer when no vaccines were available. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is drawing criticism from experts in the medical and scientific community for its off-and-on masking recommendations.
But the delta variant makes no distinctions when it comes to politics. If Biden's pandemic response is found wanting, Republican governors opposed to pandemic mandates also face an accounting. They, too, were counting on a backdrop of declining cases. Instead unvaccinated patients are crowding their hospitals.
The Biden administration's process-driven approach succeeded in delivering more than enough vaccine to protect the country, sufficient to ship 110 million doses overseas. When the president first set his 70% vaccination target on May 4, the U.S. was dispensing around 965,000 first doses per day, a rate more than twice as fast as needed to reach the July 4 goal.
Then things started to happen.
While the White House was aware of public surveys showing swaths of the population unwilling or unmotivated to get a shot, officials didn't anticipate that nearly 90 million Americans would continue to spurn lifesaving vaccines that offer a pathway back to normalcy. The spread of misinformation about the vaccines enabled a festering fog of doubt that has clung close to the ground in many communities,...