A few months ago, it seemed as though the country was poised to finally tame the pandemic, after two years of restrictions and tens of billions in government spending. The Biden administration in March released the first national covid-19 preparedness plan to help Americans safely “return to normal,” a strategy to live with the continued presence of the virus and the emergence of new variants.
In response, elected representatives and much of the country essentially sighed, seemingly preferring to move on and give up the fight. Congress has failed to approve more spending for free testing, treatments, and vaccines. Local governments lifted mandates and many people have stopped wearing masks, even in crowded indoor spaces. Two-thirds of those who waited in line for hours to receive their initial vaccinations seem less willing to walk into a pharmacy to get a free booster, leaving themselves more susceptible to the omicron variants.
The pandemic response has become mild-mannered and performative, backed by neither money, urgency, nor enforcement.
Although the Biden administration has requested $22.5 billion more covid funding — warning of 100 million possible infections and a wave of deaths this fall — the Senate has considered providing less than half that much. Even that amount is stalled because lawmakers have tied it to immigration issues. Without those funds, the government can’t maintain the programs that have effectively flattened the curve of the pandemic thus far; it ca …