On Monday, the US sent a notice that for now it will maintain existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel due to concerns about an increase in infection rates due to the delta variant.
It was the latest sign that the White House is being forced to rethink its thinking about the coronavirus pandemic, as a more contagious variant spreads across the US and a significant portion of the population resists vaccination.
It was also a departure from sentiment expressed by President Joe Biden earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the US could lift the ban on European travel to the US after the issue was raised. Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to the White House.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the restrictions will remain in place for now.
“Because of the delta variant, cases are on the rise here at home, especially among the unvaccinated, and it looks like they will continue in the coming weeks,” she said.
The rise in the number of cases is also forcing the administration to take a closer look at the policy of wearing masks.
On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require a COVID-19 vaccine from its healthcare providers. And over the weekend, US health officials admitted they are considering changing the federal government’s mask-wearing guidelines.
The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first discovered in India, but has now been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said this option accounts for approximately 83% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations over the previous week.
The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to re-establish camouflage rules even for vaccinated Americans.
The White House is following a guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in May, which said unvaccinated people shouldn’t need to wear masks indoors. They have not yet made any changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in the exposed events.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading national infectious disease expert, told CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that the recommendation that vaccinated face masks be “actively considered” by top government public health officials.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very disappointed.”
The delta variant surge poses a major political problem for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC issued a relaxed camouflage guide in May and announced on July 4 that “the virus is on the run and America is returning.” In the past few months, he has shifted his focus from dire warnings to Americans about vaccinations to public events that showcased his infrastructure, education and job proposals, which are currently in the midst of heated negotiations on Capitol Hill.
The administration touted strong economic growth as fears of a pandemic diminished, states eased restrictions on the coronavirus, and their economies reopened. But the growing delta option risks undermining that economic progress and diverting Biden’s attention from his domestic agenda and Democratic priorities such as weapons, voting and police reform, back to the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
It could also highlight one of the administration’s biggest problems at the moment: low vaccination rates across the country. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults have received one shot, according to the CDC – still slightly below 70% of Biden’s July 4 target. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.
Asked Monday if he was confident he could get unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated, Biden said, “We must,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA announcement, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki dodged reporters’ questions about why the administration had yet to issue its own vaccination orders for health care workers, handing the recommendations to the CDC and hospitals and health associations for a final decision.
Psaki acknowledged that the administration risks undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already sensitive issue if the president becomes the face of vaccination mandates.
“The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice for every community on the benefits of vaccination, so we have invested as much as in local voices and empowering local voice of authority,” she said.
However, it is clear that the administration is taking steps to address the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Biden announced on Monday that those Americans who are dealing with so-called “long-term COVID” – sometimes debilitating side effects caused by illness that lasts several months after initial exposure – will have access to disability protections under federal law.
“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes rise to the level of disability,” he said, adding that they will have housing in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives with dignity and receive the support they need.”
And the CDC advised Americans not to travel to the United Kingdom last Monday due to a sharp rise in cases there.
Most countries in continental Europe have eased restrictions on fully vaccinated Americans, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantine for most US airline visitors, however, the lack of two-way travel is said to limit the number of flights they can offer. and seats they can sell.
But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially delta mutations, has forced the Biden administration to act slowly on increasing transatlantic travel.