‘No federal solution’ for pandemic, Biden concedes

No longer vowing to ‘shut down’ Covid-19, the president says states will need to solve the crisis on their own

President Joe Biden has apparently backed down from his pre-election pledge to stop Covid-19 in its tracks, telling governors that it’s up to state governments to end the pandemic.

“There is no federal solution,” Biden said on Monday in a teleconference with governors. “This gets solved at the state level.”

The statement was in stark contrast to Biden’s bold pledge in October 2020, just four days before the presidential election, to stop the pandemic. “I’m not going to shut down the country,” he said at the time. “I’m not going to shut down the economy. I’m going to shut down the virus.” He repeatedly made the same promise while speaking to supporters on the campaign trail.

Setting high expectations for stopping the spread of Covid-19 was a linchpin of Biden’s presidential campaign. He hammered then-President Donald Trump for alleged failures in dealing with the virus, going so far as to say that his Republican rival was to blame for all of America’s Covid-19 deaths.

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FILE PHOTO: A Washington, DC memorial to 400,000 US Covid-19 deaths, seen here on January 19, was part of Joe Biden's inauguration ceremonies. © REUTERS / Callaghan O'Hare
Biden overtakes Trump on Covid-19 deaths

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said in his final debate with Trump.

At the time, 220,000 US deaths had been attributed to the virus. The death toll rose to around 400,000 by the time Trump left office last January. But even with Covid-19 vaccines being available throughout this year after starting to trickle out in mid-December 2020, Americans are dying at a faster pace on Biden’s watch. The toll currently stands at about 815,000, meaning the US has had 415,000 Covid-19 deaths during Biden’s 11 months on the job.

Biden’s statement on Monday regarding the crucial role of states in fighting the virus came in response to a comment by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who suggested that some federal initiatives could undermine state efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Hutchinson gave the example of the Biden administration’s plan to distribute 500 million test kits, which, he said, “dries up the supply chain for the solutions that we might offer as governor.”

Biden replied, “Ultimately, it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where the patient is in need of help, or preventing the need for help.” He urged governors to make requests for whatever help they may need, “and we’re going to have your back in any way we can.”

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