There were hints earlier this week that the Biden administration would begin pushing for renewed lockdowns amid concerns over the so-called delta variant of COVID-19.
Such a move seems to have little public support, however — and by Thursday it was clear that the White House had reversed course and backed down.
Science and lockdowns
As Fox News reported, the controversy began after one of the network’s own reporters asked White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if Americans could expect a return to lockdowns in the coming weeks.
“So if you’re listening to the science, if scientists come to you at some point down the line and say it is our opinion that there should be shutdowns and there should be school closures, you would do that,” Peter Doocy, who serves as Fox News’ White House correspondent, pressed Jean-Pierre.
“Well, we listen to it. Like I said, we listen to the CDC, and the expert and their guidance are, you know, the CDC is a body that is very well respected, And we follow, again, we follow their guidance,” the White House spokesperson said in response, according to Fox.
But Fox noted that an unnamed White House official later pointed to a pair of tweets from Jean-Pierre denying that the Biden administration had any intention of calling for more lockdowns.
“We will not be going back into lockdowns,” Jean-Pierre pledged. “Why? Because we now have the tools to put this virus behind us. The science says the vaccines work — including against the Delta variant. We urge Americans to get vaccinated.”
Those words came following another tweet in which Jean-Pierre quoted President Biden as saying “more vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas most impacted by the Delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020… We are not going back to that.”
Crunching the numbers
The news comes amid heightened scrutiny on the White House and its handling of the pandemic. Newsweek reported last Sunday that the number of Americans who approve of President Biden’s management of the coronavirus has suffered a steep decline.
The magazine cited a poll from ABC News/Ipsos showing that his approval rating on COVID-19 stands at 63%, a 9-point drop from where it stood in March.
Optimism in the wake of the pandemic is declining as well, with 55% of respondents telling pollsters that they are pessimistic about the coming year, compared to 36% who said the same in May.
Just 45% said they were optimistic, a steep decline from the 64% who were optimistic about the future just two months ago. And it’s all happening on Biden’s watch.