President Joe Biden rebuked a number of Democratic-run states on Thursday for loosening or ending mask mandates.
Biden sat for an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News that aired on Thursday. The president said that the decision to lift mask mandates is “probably premature,” though he lightened his criticism by saying that the choice to lift or keep mandates is “tough,” according to The Hill.
“The science is saying now masks work, masks make a difference,” Biden said, referring to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I committed that I would follow the science, the science as put forward by the CDC and the federal people,” Biden added later. “I think it’s probably premature but it’s a tough call.”
Democratic governors in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York have rolled back or dropped mask mandates in recent days as the omicron variant of COVID-19, a less virulent and highly transmissible strain of the illness, spreads. Public opinion has also swung against restrictive measures as more and more Americans want a return to pre-COVID normalcy regardless of the disease. Both factors may be contributing to the changing stance of Democratic governors. As The Daily Wire reported:
Omicron is believed to have served — at least in part — as a natural immunizer because it was contagious, yet mild compared to the Delta variant. Cases are dropping in almost every state and hospitalizations are falling. For the first time in over a month, there are fewer than 100,000 Americans currently hospitalized for COVID, and a major contributing factor is natural immunity.
With midterms approaching, elected officials are trying to get a sense of the public perception and polls have started to show how unpopular these measures have become with the majority of Americans. One recent poll found that 44% of Americans support keeping current COVID measures in place while nearly 75% of respondents said COVID is here to stay and Americans need to learn to live with it.
In January, Biden’s approval rating for his response to COVID-19 went underwater, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker. Democrats have since began loosening restrictions and crediting the Biden administration for its handling of the illness, saying that the precautions the administration took are the reason why restrictions can now be eased.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said earlier this week that Biden’s “public health infrastructure” had been instrumental in “crushing the virus.”
“Here’s where we are in America,” Jeffries began. “Job creation is up, wages are up, unemployment is down, and the Omicron variant is in retreat — and that’s not by accident.”
“That’s because under President Biden’s leadership, a public health infrastructure was put into place, beginning with the American Rescue Plan — without a single Republican vote — to ensure that we can do everything possible to crush the virus, and that is what has been happening,” Jeffries continued, adding, “Through the trials and tribulations of a once in a century pandemic, through the Delta variant, now through the Omicron variant.”
Job creation has been steadily recovering since millions of Americans were forced out of work in widespread lockdowns in March 2020. Inflation, however, is solidly outpacing wage growth as the U.S. economy continues to move forward. According to government data, inflation rose 7% in 2021 while wages only 4.7%, overall taking a bite out of Americans’ paychecks.
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