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.
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.