When Joe Biden was running for president from the basement of his Delaware home, he issued what he described as a seven-point plan “to beat COVID-19.” More than a year later, Biden announced his latest plan, which basically repeats everything he promised he’d do when running for president.
The big news announced on Tuesday was that the administration would buy and distribute half a billion at-home tests to anyone who asks because, he said, testing is key to getting COVID under control.
But Biden promised the same thing last year. In fact, the very first item on his seven-point plan was to “fix Trump’s testing-and-tracing fiasco to ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.”
Biden said he’d “double the number of drive-through testing sites … scale up our testing capacity by orders of magnitude … stand up a Pandemic Testing Board like Roosevelt’s War Production Board (to) produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.”
Yet the news today is filled with stories of people who can’t get tests.
At his press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked Biden if the lack of sufficient tests was a failure. “No,” was Biden’s response. “COVID is spreading so rapidly. It just happened almost overnight.” He denied that it took too long to ramp up testing, saying that “the Omicron virus spread more rapidly than anybody thought … All of a sudden it was like everybody rushed to the counter.”
But as with so many things Biden says, that was a big, fat self-serving lie.
The shortage of COVID tests has been a problem for several months. Back in September, in fact, the Centers for Disease Control warned about a “shortage of COVID-19 rapid tests.” That was long before anyone had ever heard of an Omicron variant.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty notes that “a few days later, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt wrote about the shortage of test supplies. In October, Reuters wrote about the shortage of test supplies. In November, ProPublica wrote about the shortage of test supplies. Do you notice a pattern here?”
So, what’s Biden’s new plan? Boost production of tests, increase the number of government-run testing sites, and give all Americans access to free tests.
His latest proposal will probably be as successful as his first one. The administration is just now trying to figure out how to implement the distribution of these free tests, promising among other things to set up a website where people can order them. The idea that the federal government can accomplish this task in such a short time is dubious. (As anyone who tried to use the Obamacare website when it first launched can attest.)
Even it can pull this off, Biden says the free tests won’t be available until some time in January. But if this year’s winter peak is similar to last year’s, COVID rates will start to decline in early January, which means the tests will start going out after the crisis has already abated.
There’s another potential problem with Biden’s scheme. What happens while manufacturers are producing those half a billion tests for the federal government? Won’t that just create still more shortages of tests in the private market? If you think Biden has anticipated this potential problem, you haven’t been paying attention to his gross incompetence.
Meanwhile, Biden has done little, in anything, to fix the regulatory machinery that is clearly slowing down production of COVID tests.
Here’s what Kaiser Health News reported on Nov. 22 in a story headlined “Why You Can’t Find Cheap At-Home COVID Tests:
“The U.S. produced covid-19 vaccines in record time, but, nearly two years into the pandemic, consumers have few options for cheap tests that quickly screen for infection, though they are widely available in Europe. … Some experts say the FDA’s approach to clearing rapid tests has been onerous and overly focused on exceptional accuracy to detect positive results, rather than on what would really benefit people en masse: speedy results.”
That story appeared two days before South Africa reported detecting the Omicron variant.
It’s worth noting that the “record time” for vaccine development happened under Trump, who did take steps to rein in regulators.
An what did Biden say on Tuesday about knocking down regulatory barriers standing in the way of getting more tests to people? Zip. Zero. Nada,
That’s never been part of his plan.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board