After repeatedly shooting itself in the foot for months, the Biden administration has finally lurched one step in the right direction -- and two steps in the wrong. This week Biden lifted the travel ban on most of Europe, replacing it with requirements that all foreign entrants to the U.S. must be vaccinated AND have a negative COVID test within 72 hours AND cover their nose and mask for the entire duration of the transcontinental flight.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said, "we know vaccines are effective including against the delta variant, and vaccines are the best line of defense against COVID." Great! So it's entirely unnecessary for fully vaccinated individuals to take a COVID test or wear a mask on the plane, right? ... Right? Given the overwhelming evidence proving the efficacy of multiple vaccines (a stunning scientific achievement), the White House can't believe the vaccine is ineffective; they must believe the American public can't be trusted to make the simplest of logical inferences.
Zients followed that sentence with one more telling: "so this vaccination requirement of course is the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus." What about leading by example, sincere persuasion, cooperating with private partners? Our government is staffed by people who believe "of course" a government mandate is the only way to accomplish something.
Until recently, the Biden administration insisted on maintaining the travel restrictions, even after the E.U. overtook the U.S. in vaccinations this summer, angering U.S. allies in the process. Yet a State Department spokeswoman insisted replacing the travel ban with a vaccine passport was "driven by the science." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki agreed, "If we were going to make things much easier for ourselves, we would have [lifted the travel ban] ... earlier this summer." If science drove the change, what took so long? Efficacy of the vaccines, the Delta variant wreaking havoc among the unvaccinated, and vaccination rates in Europe and the U.S. haven't changed since the summer.
Unfortunately, observers of the Biden administration have come to expect that "science-driven" is a euphemism for "politically expedient." In recent weeks, the Biden administration has announced plans to unilaterally mandate vaccines for all federal and military employees, all federal contractors, and all private employers with at least 100 employees. President Biden has made it clear he plans to vaccinate everyone in America except for those illegally swarming across the southern border. There are fears that instituting a vaccine passport for foreign air travelers may be a preparatory step to instituting a vaccine passport on domestic flights.
"We have not yet gotten to the point of requiring vaccinations on domestic flights, but everything is on the table. We consider these things literally on a daily basis," said Fauci. Zients agreed, "we're not taking any measures off the table." It's unclear how big this table is, but here's a suggestion they should consider daily: end the comical mandates forcing vaccinated individuals to wear masks everywhere. Perhaps then Americans will believe their claims about vaccine efficacy. Instead, the Biden administration decided to double the fine for refusing to wear a mask on an airplane: "We clearly have a track record that shows we're pulling available levers to require vaccinations," added Zients -- and some unavailable, unconstitutional levers, too.
Indeed, the Biden administration is grasping at straws now, as Biden's approval sinks to 31 percent in a new poll of Iowa voters, so it's not a surprise they found the unconstitutional levers tempting. Biden promised to end the COVID pandemic, but it might just end him.