On Monday, the US recorded a staggering 1 million new covid cases, as the Omicron variant explodes across the country. Yet, thus far, the federal response has ranged from abysmal to recklessly negligent—accented by seemingly conflicting information coming from the CDC, which recently, bafflingly shortened its isolation guidelines to just five days.
And lately, President Biden’s Twitter has been doing little to quell outrage about the administration’s failures.
On Wednesday, while teachers’ unions across the country were fighting for their lives, Biden tweeted: “I know COVID testing remains frustrating, but we are making improvements. … Google “COVID test near me” to find the nearest site where you can get a test.”
As the national covid death toll nears 850,000, the president of the United States — who is tested daily — is casually instructing his panicked and confused constituents to “just Google” information that he and his administration should be doing everything they can to provide.
This is a global public health crisis and a fundamentally community-oriented, life-or-death matter that can’t be addressed via individual Google searches and pithy, out-of-touch advice from the most powerful person in the world. I cannot stress this enough: The president of the United States, not Google, should be helping us obtain life-saving health information.
At the very least, the tweet could have included a link to online resources on finding nearby testing sites and other resources. Though, to make matters worse, the White House’s website itself isn’t particularly helpful either:
Last month, the White House responded to scathing criticisms of its lacking Omicron response by announcing it would set up a website where people can request covid tests (not exactly the same thing as just mailing tests to everyone, which is what it should do). The administration also announced a pause on student loan repayments, originally set to resume on Feb. 1, until May 1.
It cannot be understated that there’s so much more the federal government could be doing, as states, cities, local schools and individual households are left to fend for themselves. At-home covid tests should be regularly mailed to each household. Just as the White House requires anyone who gets near the president to be wearing a KN95 or N95 mask, the federal government should be mailing everyone higher quality masks, too.
Almost anything, really, would be better than just tweeting out, “Folks, get vaccinated” — while vaccination significantly reduces risk of severe symptoms and death, Omicron remains highly transmissible among vaccinated people, and deadly for immunocompromised people. And in any case, vaccinated people are also confused about what we should and shouldn’t do, and where we can get tests and higher quality masks.
Telling us to use Google as a substitute for essential public health education or distributing tests and advanced masks to our homes isn’t just lazy, negligent governing — it’s a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who are terrified and exhausted, and have been for two seemingly endless years.