Biden announces mask mandate for interstate travel
And we're getting our first look at the Biden administration's national strategy to fight the Corona virus pandemic. One of the president's first priorities is to expand testing and vaccine production. And our next guest applauds the president's plan but wants to see more done. Dr. Lena Wen is a professor of public health at George Washington University and an ER physician. She's on Skype. And Dr Wen Biden's goal is 100 million vaccine doses in his 1st 100 days in office in the Washington Post. You call this a disappointingly low goal. Why First of all I do want to point out that we were yesterday, one day into his presidency, and he's already put forth a plan that we've been missing from the Trump Administration for a year. And this plan is comprehensive and addresses so many components that we've all been asking from the Trump administration testing PPE travel masking its very comprehensive and I couldn't help but think how different things would have been if we had this type of plan in place months ago. The thing is, though, we do need bold action at this point that is befitting of what? President Biden Call's This wartime effort. 100 Million Vaccines. Sounds like a lot. But, frankly, 100 million vaccines that 100 days is actually the pace that we're at. Now we are at about 900,000 million vaccinations a dame, and so if that's what President Biden call's a dismal failure they continuing at that pace isn't particularly inspiring. The other thing, too, is at this rate. We're not going to be able to reach herd immunity. For a two does vaccine until June of 2022. So a lot more needs to be done. And it's possible then maybe their supply issues that the new administration is uncovering. But if that's the case, they should tell us and set the expectation because right now, this is not the kind of aspirational moon shot that we need. Something else. Biden also signed executive orders requiring masks and federal buildings and on public transit between states. You want to know why he's not issuing a national mask mandate. You also suggested he could withhold federal funds from states that don't require masks. But we've been talking so much about state's rights to make their own decisions. Couldn't a national mandate actually create a huge backlash? You know, this is a very difficult trade off that we have to be making at this point about what is an individual liberty versus what is the public Good. In this case, I would equate wearing masks similar to what we do with seat belts and specifically with not allowing drunk driving. This is not about your own right or about a state, right. This is also something that affect the entire country. If there is a hot spot in one part of the country, it's going to end up spreading to other parts of the country as well. And so again. I applaud President Biden's action in issuing this Last mandate that protects federal workers who are in federal buildings. I just think that bolder action would also set the right tone. We also know that what is driving the infection in many parts of the country are indoor gatherings, extended family and friends. It really breaks my heart to see little kids not be in school. But then there are birthday parties and play dates that are occurring. It breaks my heart to see restaurants and retail businesses not be able to open but people are getting together indoors for dinner parties and game nights. Now I completely realize that pandemic fatigue is real, and that people want to see their loved ones. But I also think that there is a hard truth that we depend on President Biden to convey, which is that if we want for schools and businesses to open then what are we as individuals willing to give up? Huh? President Biden has predicted that the death toll will top 500,000 next month. But then there is the slight dip in the number of cases recently. In some states. How do you interpret these numbers? And what do you expect? We'll see in the coming weeks. I'm not sure at this point that we can understand the recent decrease in hospitalizations and infections as a trend yet I want to be optimistic. But I'm also concerned because it's possible that we haven't seen the full effects off the holidays just yet. In addition, we have these new variants. The CDC is projecting. That the UK variant may well become the dominant variant here in the U. S by March, and this is a very intense, more contagious and as a result, it will result in more deaths. And so I am not cautiously optimistic. I'm looking at the next several weeks as some of the most difficult that we will have faced as a country and things may still deteriorate from there. We need to get vaccines into arms as quickly as we can. And in the meantime, we have to reduce the spray. Head of this virus and again, I think that's a message that all of us is public health experts but also, as politicians and leaders of the community need to help to convey that this battle is far from being over. That's Dr Lena When Professor of public health at George Washington University and an emergency room physician as always, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.