Why Biden’s Omicron Speech Won’t Break Through
But even he must know that he faces an almost impossible task, as he tries to piece together some sense of oneness in a Humpty Dumpty of a nation consumed by disease, division and mistrust. The combination of an exhausted audience, mixed messages from health officials and great skepticism from large parts of the country means the president will struggle to break through.
And Omicron’s surge couldn’t come at a worse time, both for Biden and the country. With the virus on the rise again, his national agenda shrinking and approval numbers dropping, Biden needs to build his confidence and project skills on the no. 1 number of the day. Meanwhile, the new variant hits just as millions return home for the holidays.
But restoring confidence and his own political brilliance is difficult when Biden is also the de facto voice of the pandemic response at a time of falling trust in science and expertise, especially (but not exclusively) among republicans.
“Get vaccinated now,” he pleaded. “It’s free. It’s convenient. I promise it saves lives. And honestly to God, I believe it’s your patriotic duty.
Much of America doesn’t even listen to him. Poll after poll – or a quick twist on Twitter – has shown that in many conservative communities the talk about the latest variant of the coronavirus is just pandemic fear pornography of a president they didn’t vote for and scientific advisers they despise. This minimization of the virus persists even though seven in 10 Americans personally know someone who has been hospitalized or has died – a discovery by Pew last summer, even before Delta pushed the country’s death toll to over 800,000.
And exhausted after nearly two years of the pandemic with more difficulty ahead, people want certainty. But in the midst of a rapidly evolving pandemic of an ever-changing virus, neither Biden nor Anthony Fauci nor any other evidence-based health or science spokesperson can give them that – even s ‘They’re virus skeptics, anti-vax podcasters, YouTubers, and doctors outside of the mainstream on right-wing TV promise the opposite.
Science is incremental. Ideally, understand the changes. And in this complicated global crisis, both under former President Donald Trump and Biden, everyone was wrong.
“Of course, we messed up some parts of public health communication. No one was right all the time, ”said Megan Ranney, an emergency physician in Rhode Island and a professor at Brown Medical School who is among the doctors who appear on television in an attempt to explain the pandemic to the public.
Public health officials must plan for the worst; it is their job. But when the worst doesn’t happen, instead of thanking our collective lucky stars, too many people simply decide that public health experts are fools or liars.
“For people who can understand that science evolves and changes over time, this is one thing. For those who translate uncertainty into mistrust, this creates a confusing and difficult environment, ”said Mollyann Brodie, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation which oversees the pandemic and immunization surveys.
As Biden tries to speak to the whole country, he has narrower targets as well.
Doug Evans, who leads a graduate program in public health communication at the School of Public Health at George Washington University, noted that while Biden fails to convince many Republicans, he must reassure independents as well. and Democrats “who are somewhat disappointed with how things are going.”
Of course, Biden wants more people to get vaccinated. It is essential, here and abroad, in the long term. Public health officials are particularly keen to see parents who have themselves been vaccinated to become more confident about the vaccination of their children and adolescents, who have become eligible more recently.
“Omicron is the variant of the day,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, in an email. “But this is the next and the next that we have to prepare for. Vaccination is our best hope for living with an endemic virus. “
But given the hardening of anti-vax attitudes, Biden’s audience isn’t so much unvaccinated adults. Many of those who have refused the shot for so long are hard cores and will not budge. In fact, the latest survey showed that only 12% of unvaccinated people said they might change their mind now. “If Delta hasn’t moved them, why do we think Omicron will? Said Brodie.
And the unpleasant reality is that even though people get soggy on vaccination, they can’t even get two injections – plus a six-month booster – quickly enough to thwart the sprint variant. Some protection is better than nothing, but partial vaccination will not maximize defenses.
This means that Biden’s primary target may be people who have already been vaccinated but have not received their boosters. This could add a great shock of protection against serious illnesses, even if someone does contract a breakthrough Omicron infection. And the vaccinated – boosted or not – have a Democratic lean, so they’re more likely to trust Biden.
“Our doctors made it clear: Booster shots offer the strongest protection,” Biden said, adding a reminder that masks are another layer of protection.
Clarity around the boosters is essential and expected, given that the White House’s muddled messages on the third shots were widely viewed by public health experts as one of the administration’s worst moments. The White House seemed to be ahead of its science agencies, the FDA and CDC, on boosters. Who should get what type of booster and how fast was not well explained. People didn’t know who needed it, when they could get one, or what type they needed to get. A just released Kaiser poll has been found one in four adults were unaware that booster shots are recommended after six months, with confusion higher among blacks, Hispanics, and those under 30.
Biden received an unexpected boost for boosters this week. Trump during an appearance with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Sunday, he said he got one. O’Reilly too. Trump criticized the vaccination warrants but still approved of the shootings, which were accelerated during his presidency. He hoots.
Indeed, in a rare verification of his predecessor’s name, Biden noted, “The other day former President Trump announced that he had received his recall. This may be one of the few things he and I agree on. People who have received booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.”
Despite the division, Biden must earn at least a bit of trust from Trump voters, many of whom believe the virus has been exaggerated to shatter the economy and cost Trump’s re-election.
But there’s another worrying trend: a growing partisan divide over whether scientists can act without bias and in the public interest – a gap that now stands at 30 to 40 percentage points, according to Robert. Blendon, an expert in public opinion on health. politician and professor emeritus at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. This is in part why Republican governors have the opportunity to ignore the recommendations of mainstream scientists on tackling the virus; that is where their constituents are already located.
Polls by Kaiser and others have found people confidence their doctors, their employers and even their sickness funds more than Biden or their officials. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Harvard School of Public Health survey found greater confidence among doctors and nurses than in federal authorities such as the Department of Health and Human Services or the National Academy of Medicine, which is not a political body.
The polls also looked at how much people trust media sources, and of course, there’s a big difference in how Fox and CNN describe pandemic science. It’s harder to quantitatively determine who relies on TikTok, Facebook, celebrities or influential podcasters like Joe Rogan as their primary sources of information. The White House has also used celebrities, of course, to promote pro-vaccination messages, from the Jonas Brothers and Pentatonix to singer Ciara and her grandchildren. GW’s Evans even suggested that Biden should attract celebrities who conservatives trust his messaging “like maybe country singers or sportsmen who have loud voices even in right-wing media.”
But it’s clear we’re not in the Elvis days anymore, when a big celebrity could rid itself of the mess and spur a successful vaccination campaign.
And there is no shortage of disorder.
With so much misinformation and misinformation – they are related, but not the same – pouring in from social media and other sources, many people have internalized at least some “certainties” about the virus that are in fact myths. A Kaiser survey in November found that 78 percent of adults had heard at least one of eight false statements about Covid, and one in three believes or isn’t sure about half of the false statements.
Unvaccinated adults and Republicans, in large part because of the sources of information they trust, were more likely to believe the lies, which ranged from the government exaggerating Covid deaths, to the belief that the vaccine itself. same cause Covid. It will take more than a presidential speech to let go of their deeply held, even false, beliefs and do more to protect themselves and others from a virus that many do not really fear could seriously harm them.
As a 32-year-old woman from North Carolina told the Kaiser Immunization Inquiry, “Jesus himself should come down from Heaven and speak to me personally.