It has been almost a year since the coronavirus first emerged in the United States, and it's still spreading uncontrolled through much of the country. Several mutant variants have emerged — some of them with alarming new properties — and the vaccination campaign that was supposed to finally save the world is faltering badly.
President-elect Joe Biden has announced plans to revamp the nation's flagging coronavirus response. The scope and tenor of his vision seem commensurate with the task at hand. Biden says he will ask Congress for $415 billion — to scale up testing, vaccination and genomic surveillance, to increase domestic manufacturing, and to create a national corps of public health workers.
But to prevail, the new administration will have to win numerous political battles and overcome a growing undercurrent of national apathy and exhaustion.
It has been nearly 11 months since the coronavirus was first detected in the United States, and it continues to spread relentlessly, sickening and killing as officials dither and debate, and repeat obvious mistakes. In spring and summer, the problem was testing and personal protective equipment; this fall and winter, it has been vaccination and genomic surveillance.
Time and again, the federal government has foisted responsibility for unwieldy initiatives onto individual states without providing the support those states need to succeed. Time and again, the states have fumbled and faltered. Time and again, the virus has surged.
It's tempting to succumb to indifference after so much suffering and loss.
But the change in administration is an opportunity to finally heed the lessons of this pandemic and get it under control before things get even worse.
The national vaccination effort is in a state of chaos. Only about one-third of the 30 million or so shots provided to states have been injected into arms. The rest have been held up by a roster of factors, including vaccine hesitancy, cumbersome federal prioritization guidelines, and poor coordination between major pharmacies and the thousands of nursing homes whose staff and residents they are supposed to inoculate.
President-elect Biden has vowed to get those measures in place quickly, and to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days. That's a worthy goal. But to succeed, he'll have to do a much better job than his predecessor of communicating with and supporting states.
Congress can help make sure that the decided-upon vaccination strategy succeeds, and that the overall coronavirus response prevails, by approving and releasing the necessary funds as quickly as possible.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES