The US amidst Confusions
President Joe Biden is battling through his a science-vs.-politics confrontation with powerful Southern Republican governors, one that could describe the outcome of the race to vaccinate ample Americans before variants get stronger.
On Tuesday, Biden cautioned the country to wait for a while longer as he flexed far-reaching wartime powers while announcing there would be sufficient doses for all US adults by the end of May. He revealed a ground-breaking plan for pharmaceutical giant Merck to make a vaccine developed by its competitor Johnson & Johnson.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now to ensure victory is inevitable; we can’t assume that. We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively and look out for one another,” the President added.
Opposing the federal government warnings, Texas and Mississippi’s governors expressed their decision to relax the restrictions and open their economies. However, it’s too early, as mentioned by the health experts. The new infections can increase at high levels with heightened fears over a massive spike in the following weeks. On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had advised that with variants spreading, “we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”
There is confidence in the availability of vaccines which has increased ever since Biden took to office. But experts are cautioning that opening too fast could make the country vulnerable to the new variants of Covid-19. The variants are seemed to be more infectious, which could also pose a threat of making the vaccines less effective. When the country is finally getting optimistic with the hope of availability of vaccines after almost a year, steps from the states like Texas and Mississippi could mean not just exposing their residents but also all other Americans.
“I have to be honest with you, this fight is far from over,” Biden mentioned at the White House, cautioning that the pandemic could start to get worse as new variants, like those initially found in the UK and South Africa, spread.
Still in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott took a different route, declaring that severe economic pain and a fall in infections make him declare lifting the mask mandate and all business restrictions from the coming week.
“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott added.
Forgetting the Past
The early openings may prove risky. Ignoring the history and repeating it with yet more untimely declarations of victory over the virus when the country has already witnessed the most infections and most deaths from Covid-19 would only jeopardize it.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, shared with CNN’s Erin Burnett that this is a gigantic mistake and that they are not doing well. Mentioning the state of the pandemic in Texas he further said that,” We have seen this movie and it doesn’t turn out well,”
The Southern Republican, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, also declared an end to all county mask mandates and said businesses can start from Wednesday at full capacity. “Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!” Reeves tweeted on Tuesday.
It should be noted that the Republicans are not the only governors loosening the restrictions with new cases of Covid-19 and deaths from the virus falling. There are few states and cities run by Democrats also doing so, but the fact remains that unlike Texas and Mississippi, they are not being so relaxed as though the virus has simply disappeared. For e.g. in Louisiana, most businesses and restaurants will be allowed to upsurge capacity to 75% and there will be no constraints on religious services as of Wednesday as said by the Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In Michigan, restaurants can open at 50% capacity, up from 25%, on March 5, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.
The early openings are leading to frustration in the White House, as Biden attempts to make good on his vow to eliminate the virus and when new advances in developing vaccines mean that relative safety could be just a few months away.
“We certainly understand the pressure governors are under and we appreciate the working relationship we have with Gov. Abbott,” Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team shared with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“But at the same time, we think it’s a mistake to lift these mandates too early. Masks are saving a lot of lives. I’m really hoping that the businesses and the community and people in Texas, the mayors, the counties, will rethink this. I hope the governor rethinks this. Hopefully states will stick with this until such a time as we get through all the vaccinations and see the other side of this.”
Medical experts opine that the premature openings as illogical at a moment when there are possibilities that infections may increase again from already high levels and as vaccines are expected by the end of may. The loosening of restrictions may imply a risk to the low immunity people, endangering their lives almost when the vaccines are expected to hit the critical mass.
“It could undo all the incredible work that we have done thus far,” Dr.. Leena shared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” adding that mask mandates would allow schools to reopen and businesses to get back on their feet — and were a path toward freedom, not an infringement on it.
States Mandate no longer needed
Abbott expressed that it was now time for Texans to be reliable to take their own precautions to stop Covid-19, and government enforcement was no longer required.
“Make no mistake, Covid-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.
“With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”
While Biden has raised hope in the country by stating that the US will have vaccine for every adult by the end of May, but the fact that only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated so far dilutes the idea that vaccinations have changed the game. It is far short of the figure required to ensure herd immunity to stop the virus from spreading.
While Abbott’s announcement was welcomed by some people, it also received negative reactions by many local officials in Texas. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, indicated the governor of trying to divert from his failures during a winter storm last week in the state that blacked out a lot of the power grid.
“You should focus on what doctors, facts and science say is safe; not on what Gov. says is legal!” Jenkins mentioned on Twitter.
Judge Ricardo Samaniego, a Democrat from El Paso County, which has been beaten by Covid-19, said his specialists had 280 bodies in the county’s holding facility and advised that Abbott’s directive was comparable to lifting the need to wear seat belts.
“Our community would have appreciated his condolences to the families who have lost loved ones, and public health would have appreciated if he would have focused on the dangers of a new variation of the virus which is quickly emerging,” Samaniego tweeted.
America sees Science vs. politics crash
The bang between Washington and many states show that the battle between science and politics did not end when Trump left the White House. Many traditionalists have pointed out at scientific advice to keep non-essential businesses shut on the basis that they are an improper violation of basic rights. Others have expressed doubt on the science, and leaders like Biden by saying that they are keen to keep Americans locked down in order to use their own liberal powers. While the fact remains that the President would likely reap a political dividend even if he is able to overcome the virus. There is no questioning of the unrestrained economic and social costs of lockdowns, business closures and constraints. Millions of Americans are experiencing financial hit, have been jammed at home for months, and some are separated from their families. The innocent generation of school kids is paying a terrible price for the virus. The nation is now anxious to get back to some realisms of normality.