Biden ‘Rethinking’ COVID Rules: AP

Biden administration considers “steps we should be taking to keep the country moving forward,” says White House COVID-19 coordinator.

QUICK FACTS:
  • As midterm elections approach, the White House said Wednesday it is beginning to prepare for a less-restrictive phase of the national COVID response in the face of growing impatience to ease up and turn toward post-pandemic normalcy, The Associated Press reports.
  • Biden faces increasing scrutiny for his caution amid declining cases and rising public frustration, especially because he promised he would “beat COVID-19.”
  • The White House for the first time acknowledged movement in its planning on Wednesday, saying conversations have been underway privately for weeks, according to AP.
  • AP comments that Biden’s hesitance to back off restrictions might be driven in part by the “sting of his fleeting ‘declaration of independence’ from the virus last summer, which proved premature in the face of the delta and then omicron strains.”
  • AP thinks Biden’s move is an indication that his administration “will take a more flexible approach to jurisdictions that make their own choices.”
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 COORDINATOR SAID:
  • White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said officials are consulting with state and local leaders and public health officials “on steps we should be taking to keep the country moving forward.”
BACKGROUND:
  • Governors and local school officials have been pressing for clearer federal guidelines for easing or ending restrictions, AP reports.
  • The White House did not offer a timetable for the review or an indication of what it will recommend regarding losening of COVID restrictions.
  • Democratic states are moving to roll back mask mandates, following their Republican neighbors, as earlier this week, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware announced plans to lift statewide mask requirements in schools.
  • On Wednesday, state officials said Massachusetts will follow suit starting Feb 28.
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the state will end a COVID-19 mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings, but will keep masking rules in place in schools, AP notes.