Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

Biden Is Rightsizing the COVID Crisis

| May 04, 2022

The president continues to push for accommodating individual preferences rather than promoting collective solutions to the coronavirus.

This past weekend, Anthony Fauci bailed on the White House Correspondents' Dinner. President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser concluded that the indoor event, though open only to vaccinated attendees who tested negative for COVID-19 the same day, was too risky for his own taste. Biden himself split the difference and showed up only for the speeches, not for the meal. Asked to explain this turn of events, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, "Every individual will make their own decisions about whether they attend this event, other events, whether they wear a mask at it or not."

The underlying premise was that Fauci and Biden, like all other Americans, must reach their own conclusions about how to reduce their risk. Whether individuals party or don't party is not a federal question.

The implicit policy, in short, is: You do you.

The coronavirus is here to stay, and Americans vary quite a lot in how much they care about that fact. Biden appears to understand this dynamic far better than his public-health team does. Despite his vows to "follow the science," he was far ahead of federal regulators in pushing for booster shots last fall—to the point that two top FDA vaccine experts resigned. Some scientists wanted to wait for more data about the benefits of boosters; others argued the U.S. government should concentrate on winning over Americans who had not yet been persuaded to get their first shot. But Biden plunged ahead, having apparently concluded that the benefits of offering more protection to Americans who are deeply concerned about their own chance of contracting the virus or passing it along to others outweighed any downside....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“Biden Is Rightsizing the COVID Crisis.” The Atlantic, May 4, 2022.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem Headshot