President Biden’s Pollster To Democrats: Lift Mask Restrictions Or Risk Election

I’ve written for a year that the decision on ‘returning to normal’ which includes sunsetting the transportation mask mandate requiring masks be worn in airports and on planes would be a political one. Specifically, the mandate would sunset before end of summer so that the President could declare victory over the pandemic before the midterm elections. Control of the House and Senate hang in the balance.

Betting markets now agree with me but haven’t moved as much as I’d have expected. Perhaps this is the result of Polymarket being cut off to U.S. citizens.

President Biden’s pollster’s firm now is giving Democrats this same advice. (HT: Daniel) “Democratic campaign pros..see disaster in November unless the party figures out a better message on Covid.” Here’s the strategy memo.

Here’s the opening paragraph of their memo:

    “After two years that necessitated lockdowns, travel bans, school closures, mask mandates, and nearly a million deaths, nearly every American finally has the tools to protect themselves from this virus. It’s time for Democrats to take credit for ending the COVID crisis phase of the COVID war, point to important victories like vaccine distribution and providing economic stability to Americans, and fully enter the rebuilding phase that comes after any war.”

And here are the bullet points:

    — “Declare the crisis phase of COVID over and push for feeling and acting more normal.”

    — “Recognize that people are ‘worn out’ and feeling real harm from the years-long restrictions and take their side.”

    — “Acknowledge COVID still exists and likely will for a long time.”

    — “Don’t set ‘COVID zero’ as the victory condition.”

    — “Stop talking about restrictions and the unknown future ahead.”

Flight attendants unions want the mask rule, currently set to end March 18, to be extended though many flight attendants do not.

Excluding data weirdness for a day based on reporting lulls during Thanksgiving, we’re at a 7 day moving average number of cases in the U.S. that we haven’t seen since July. Hospitals are not generally on the verge of being overwhelmed. Boosters are widely available and effective. The dominant variant of the virus is less virulent. And treatments are better and more available, too. Shifting to a paradigm where individuals can choose to protect themselves with properly-fitting N95 masks rather than requiring (cloth) masks makes sense.

All states but Hawaii have announced the end of their statewide indoor mask mandates. The CDC has new masking guidance that focuses on hospitalizations. The Biden administration may not be ready March 1 in the State of the Union to declare victory – it’s mere days away and they’d no doubt like to see less virus spread before doing so, although perhaps they’d like to balance out news of Ukraine – but to the extent the mandate is renewed beyond March 18th then surely that will be for the last time.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Can’t happen without causing a severe depression. The U.S. economy is now 48% Fauci paraphernalia sold on Etsy and 51% healthcare spending on masks and vaccines.

  2. @ Gary — I am all for COVID restrictions being lifted, but we are fooling ourselves about this being “over”. The vaccines don’t work as promised and there will be more waves in the future. Yeah, the vaccines reduce hospitalizations and deaths, but they do not stop transmission of the disease as one would have hoped from something called a “vaccine”.

  3. @Gene – mRNA vaccines based on the original Wuhan strain absolutely were sterilizing prior to the Delta wave. The virus has mutated, we’re still using the same vaccines, but vaccines DO reduce the likelihood of getting the virus and the likelihood of spreading the virus.

    My point here though is simply that because someone who chooses to be boosted with mRNA vaccines has so little threat of severe disease, they can choose to protect themselves. They can get treated. And they can choose the extra protection of an N95 mask if they wish. But there’s no longer a need to require everyone to do so, especially given declining virus prevalence in the U.S. against a backdrop of significant immunity in the population from both vaccination and prior Omicron infection.

  4. Biden and Dems going to have other (bigger) problems than COVID. Oil is probably going to continue being very high, and unless the US goes big again for energy production on it’s own, people are going to feel the hurt (btw – don’t know if anyone noticed in the last few days that the hopes of the Biden admin that Saudi Arabia will “cover” the shortage are going no where. They’re not playing ball because of the fact they have no interest to do this, and probably also due to the upcoming weak Iran deal – they’ll want the US to give them something to compensate for this bad Iran deal, and for them to play ball on oil).

  5. Gary, the CDC even admitted in the early days of the vaxx that it did not disrupt transmission. This language was soon thereafter scrubbed from the site. It was always, at best, a symptom mitigator with a roughly six month expiry period, with unknown long-term side effects. This has always been the case. The weakness and increased infectiousness of new variants only emphasizes what always was. It has not “changed the game” but instead only illustrates what the rules of the game always were.

    All reality aside- the Branch Covidians will not let their tyranny go gently into the night.

  6. Here in California, there are a lot of identity politics at play with this. Masks have kind of become the MAGA hats of the left. Although we are highly vaccinated there are people that don’t want to give them up – and that is fine – but don’t force it on others anymore. They still live as if it were two years ago before there were vaccines, monoclonals, antivirals, and readily available N95’s. The vulnerable or hysterical now have multiple effective ways to protect themselves from getting sick and treatments if they do get sick.

  7. It is hardly a feather in the cap to recognize that covid management including mask mandates would come down to politics. Covid has become the most politically polarizing event in the history of the US.

    Your bottom line is accurate. It is time to let people make up their own minds based on their own risk assessment as well as their own health. Covid has been treated as a community health issue for far too long.

  8. @Lars – the CDC identified spread amongst vaccinated not ‘in the early days’ but with the Provincetown outbreak which involved significant ‘close contact’, this was an early August 2021 report.

  9. I think the new CDC guidelines published today will be the end of forced mask wearing just about everywhere in the country within a few weeks. You can’t say “have to wear masks because the CDC says so,” and then turn around and say “have to wear masks even though the CDC no longer says so.” I have a flight booked for March 20 and suspect I may not need to wear a mask on it.

    The memo is correct. Those of us who want to protect ourselves with the highly effective vaccines can do so, and anyone can also wear a quality mask if desired.

  10. The Kovid Krazies in Northern Virginia are finally beginning to shed their masks, although doing so seems to have led to an identity crises for many. It’s not uncommon now to see used masks littering the floors of supermarkets, as if a Great Awakening has caused shoppers to suddenly pull off their masks in the middle of the yogurt aisle.

  11. Gary is so averse to admitting he fell for the bulk of the lies over the past two years, he simply can’t bring himself to give up the Covid narrative. I posted this on another thread and it perfectly encapsulates Gary and others of his ilk.

    “How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it’s exposed in the bright light of day, he still clings to it – indeed, clings to it all the harder? No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie.” Lamar Keene

  12. Let the MAGA-correlated anti-vaxxers keep over-indexing in their dying…have at it Darwin Award winners!

  13. You can’t be serious.

    No one seriously thinks Brandon and the vice have any chance of being elected legitimately for the first time.

    Southern border
    Think steaks and gas
    Afghanistan total F up
    Russia weakness
    Next will be China

    No chance another bogus election.

    And there’s no kneeling to the top for a vice.

    We will have a strong America again.

    And thank God

  14. @Tim OB – piss off to Russia with your Putin-praising friend Tucker C…Trump boot licking wanker

  15. I actually think it’s going to be sunset on March 18……

    It’s a little over 3 weeks away. Last time we heard by now of the extension.

    I suspect they are digesting this memo and planning accordingly.

    It will be the fight and culture war in each airline that the fight will shift.

    I suspect WN, DL and UA drop masks.

    AS, AA, B6 will keep them.

    F9, NK. Cmon. They never had thier masks on this whole time anyway. ;).

  16. President Biden and the Democrats should not be political animals with Covid. They should go the other way. Be tough on Covid. Hit it hard. A renewed attack on Covid with stricter masks rules. Biden gave away free N95 masks so require them.

    You may be tired of Covid restrictions but the virus doesn’t look at the polls. If it sees an unprotected nasal tissue, it invades it.

  17. What is the obsession here with masks? Can we get back to the posting of REAL travel stories? Sheesh!

  18. except the virus doesn’t just go after everyone and doesn’t hurt everyone equally if it even gets into their nasal passages.
    If you don’t understand that basic principle, you simply should not be commenting.

    You are free to live in hysteria but most of the US has moved on. and airlines have no choice but to push to do the same or face extinction.

  19. In addition to the mask mandates, they also need to drop the ridiculous rule requiring vaccinated travelers to be tested prior to entering the US.

  20. @tim
    sadly that is how nature works, some survive and some don’t, but locking thew world is not sustainable and creates more victims
    you can consider your friends and family members martyrs for a greater cause if that helps you

  21. I think some new crap may be pulled now that cdc introduced a new red/yellow/green mapping system for mask wearing. So it may be if a flights origin and destination are in airports situated within green zones mask requirements can be dropped, but if either origin or destination is something else, like Los Angeles which is red, then masks stay on. And all international flights keep masks on unfortunately .

  22. It’s always been about theater and has been political for at least a year. Yes, Covid will remain with us forever, it’s a new virus. @Dave nailed with regard to masks being the MAGA hats to the left. Biden has much worse problems but the mask situation isn’t helping the liberals any. He needs to reverse the restrictions on oil and gas to have a chance at his party not losing all control of congress. Inflation is killing us. Gas will likely be over $5 a gallon in short order, sanctions against Russia won’t work on the military front and will increase inflation for US consumers. His administration is more worried about nominating a pro-abortion justice, transgender rights, and climate change than in freedom, world war III, human rights, and the economy.

  23. ” piss off to Russia with your Putin-praising friend Tucker C…Trump boot licking wanker” Oh goodness. Sorry to see you’ve relapsed.

  24. UA-NYC has gone insane again LOL… again anyone that disagrees with him is a racist or and insurrectionist!

  25. @James N
    You should change your handle to ” Narcissistic Jim”. You seem to want to be awarded as the told you so recipient. Instead of the 2-year award for “I told you so”, why don’t your hold out for the 3-year old “I told you so award? Live in a fantasy world much?

  26. Isn’t funny how it’s ALWAYS the libtards that get nasty….. how “tolerant”…. *rolleyes”


  27. Shameless political theatre. Incompetent incoherence by a doddering old fool and his followers.

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