100 days in, Biden wins praise for handling of virus crisis

Trump team says Biden's success is due to work done during former administration

A woman not wearing a face mask speaks on the phone as she walks past the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 27, 2021. Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer need to mask up outdoors when there is no crowd, President Joe Biden said, before celebrating by taking his first short walk at the White House without the face covering. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm
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The day before President Joe Biden entered office on January 20, the US reached a sombre milestone of 400,000 deaths from Covid-19.

He and Vice President Kamala Harris held what was viewed as the first national mourning event that day; then they entered the White House and inherited one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks, compounded by a deadly winter surge and a rocky vaccination programme.

Since then—100 days into his presidency—another 173,000 people in the US have died from the virus. Cases, deaths and hospital admissions have been on the decline amid a small fourth surge. Mr Biden beat a promise to administer 100 million doses of vaccines within his first 100 days, administering instead 200 million in that time frame.

"I believe that Biden has handled the pandemic well, considering the circumstances that he was brought into as president," Caitlin Nicole, a finance compliance officer in Pennsylvania, wrote to The National.

The administration claims they had to build the US vaccination programme from scratch and make sure the American public took the pandemic seriously after Donald Trump's administration neglected and mismanaged the US Covid outbreak.

The team went to work when deaths were at their highest—around 3,000 fatalities daily—and cases were slowly declining from the hundreds of thousands.

Mr Biden imposed a mask mandate for all federal spaces, ordered more vaccines and reorganised domestic teams to address the pandemic. He pushed through a $1.9 trillion plan to provide funding for Covid testing and vaccinations as well as support for schools, businesses and families.

"I feel such relief from the way President Biden is handling the pandemic," Carrie Knott, a hospital quality co-ordinator in Georgia, told The National.

“I was so thrilled with his mandate for masks in transport areas such as airports" as well as how "he listens to the [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention] and [National Institutes of Health] about the pandemic even if so many in the public don’t have faith in our agencies anymore."

On January 20, the seven-day average of vaccine doses administered daily in the US surpassed 1 million, according to CDC data. Over 21 million doses were administered by inauguration day, with Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna accelerated in historic time under Mr Trump's Operation Warp Speed.

The nation's vaccination pace picked up and peaked in early April when 4.1 million doses were given in 24 hours.

About 234 million doses have been administered since December.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved later in February and the Biden administration helped bolster production in March.

Federally run immunisation sites were set up around the country with the aim of placing a site within eight kilometres of where 90 percent of the US population lives.

Vaccine eligibility was then opened up to everyone over the age of 16.

About 29.5 per cent of the US population is now fully vaccinated, while 43 per cent have had at least one dose, according to the CDC. Around 82 per cent of US adults over 65 years old have had at least one dose of vaccine.

"Without the Biden administration's guidance, there wouldn't be as many Americans vaccinated as they are today," Joseph Pubillones, an interior designer in Palm Beach, Florida, wrote to The National.

However, some say the new team's success can be traced back to work done during the Trump administration, while still others say the Biden team set public goals they knew they could beat.

"The Trump administration does deserve some credit, as they kickstarted the first rollout of the vaccines," Ms Nicole said. "I will give more credit to the pharmaceutical companies."

"Trump did one thing right in the pandemic: providing funding and cutting through red tape to get the vaccines created," Ms Knott added. "Then the plan for distribution ended at the state level. Again, each state was on its own with no technical or financial support. Vaccines could have been rolled out much more efficiently and quickly.”

Mr Biden has acknowledged there are still challenges ahead.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the administration's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response outside the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the administration's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response outside the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

There are concerns over when herd immunity will be reached after vaccinations declined 11 per cent, according to The Washington Post.

The US is also facing criticism for stockpiling vaccines and being slow to offer assistance to countries experiencing extreme outbreaks, such as Brazil and India.

"While we still have a long way to go in this fight, a lot of work to do in May and June to get us to July 4, we've made stunning progress," the president said on Tuesday.

"Cases and deaths are down—down dramatically from where they were when I took office," he said after a day where the seven-day average of infections was the lowest since October and average recorded deaths the lowest since July.

Mr Biden also announced that he will give an update next week about how the US can reach a return "closer to normal" by July 4, the nation's independence day.

"With Biden at the helm, I feel there is much more honesty and openness about the current situation," Mr Pubillones also told The National.