Biden withdraws from public COVID memorials: NPR

Biden withdraws from public COVID memorials: NPR


The night before his inauguration, Joe Biden (right) held a memorial at the Lincoln Memorial for people who had died of COVID-19.

Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images


The night before his inauguration, Joe Biden (right) held a memorial at the Lincoln Memorial for people who had died of COVID-19.

Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden pulled his daily schedule card from his jacket pocket and read a number printed on the back.

“Today we mark a really gritty, heartbreaking milestone,” he said on February 22nd. “500,071 dead.”

Biden then observed a minute’s silence on the south lawn of the White House, lit by lanterns symbolizing American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a month earlier, on the eve of his inauguration, he had presided over a similar ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial recognizing the then 400,000 COVID deaths in the country.

“In order to heal, we have to remember,” he had said. “It is important to heal as a nation.”

But over the course of the year and the death toll, Biden’s focus shifted away from remembering and healing. His public statements are now more focused on tactical work to fight the historic pandemic while he looks at vaccines, tests and deliveries.

The last time Biden pulled out his appointment card publicly to read the COVID death toll was July 29th. The number at the time was 609,441. Biden’s vaccination campaign ran up against a wall of resistance, the wave of the Delta variant had begun, and the President has now described it as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. He was increasingly expressing his anger at those who had failed to do their “patriotic duty” to get the shot.

President Biden reads the number of COVID-19 deaths from a card he carries in his pocket on July 29, 2021.

Susan Walsh / AP


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Susan Walsh / AP


President Biden reads the number of COVID-19 deaths from a card he carries in his pocket on July 29, 2021.

Susan Walsh / AP

Some whose loved ones have died of COVID are frustrated that milestones have not been marked

Kristin Urquiza longs to return to these distant, solemn memorials.

“You know, I lost my father in May 2020 and I’m still struggling with it,” said Urquiza, who founded a group called Marked By COVID that tries to draw more attention to the lives lost in hopes of saving others .

Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, she delivered the stinging line that “her father’s only pre-existing condition was to trust Donald Trump – and for that he paid with his life.”

She had hoped Biden would continue to mark the somber milestones, but then 600,000 came and went without a mention.

“I was shocked,” she said.

Kristin Urquiza and her mother Brenda Urquiza at a campaign rally for Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Phoenix on October 24, 2020.

Courtney Pedroza / Getty Images


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Courtney Pedroza / Getty Images


Kristin Urquiza and her mother Brenda Urquiza at a campaign rally for Democratic Senator Mark Kelly in Phoenix on October 24, 2020.

Courtney Pedroza / Getty Images

The death toll has risen with every major increase, with nothing but written statements from President Biden. Urquiza says it was a missed opportunity to remind people what is at stake.

“I think a lot of people close to the topic just feel like the president used COVID to get elected and not much has changed,” she said.

Carrie Pizano thought she weathered the pandemic without her worst fears coming true. She is a nurse in San Diego who participated in a vaccine study and volunteered to give COVID vaccinations at community clinics.

“Selfishly, I didn’t want to know anyone who died from it,” said Pizano.

Then, two months ago, she got a devastating phone call. Her grandmother was in the hospital and her uncle soon followed. She thought they were vaccinated, but it turned out they hadn’t been through it.

Her uncle and grandmother died of COVID within two weeks.

“She had other complaints, but she didn’t have to die alone to breathe,” said Pizano. “It wasn’t necessary and it is utterly devastating and heartbreaking for me to know that my sweet grandmother died like this.”

Pizano feels like the rest of the country has moved on. She sees people shopping without masks and hears complaints about COVID fatigue. But she cannot turn away. She sees unvaccinated patients infected with COVID in her hospital and she is still in pain at the loss of her grandmother and uncle.

People may be done with COVID, but the loved ones of 800,000 people and counting will never be the same, she said.

“I’m sorry you don’t want to see it,” she said with anger in her voice. “That’s called reality.”

Carrie Pizano and her grandmother Joanne Clark in 2019. Clark died of COVID-19 in October 2021. “She didn’t have to die alone and had trouble breathing,” Pizano told MediaFrolic.

Carrie Pizano / Carrie Pizano


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Carrie Pizano / Carrie Pizano


Carrie Pizano and her grandmother Joanne Clark in 2019. Clark died of COVID-19 in October 2021. “She didn’t have to die alone and had trouble breathing,” Pizano told MediaFrolic.

Carrie Pizano / Carrie Pizano

Biden focuses on the rapidly changing battle

Biden government officials say they are focused on the current difficult reality: a rapidly changing battle with a new variant that is now raging. At the moment her focus is not on grief.

It also begs the question of whether it makes sense for Biden to pause to acknowledge the growing number of deaths, says Presidential historian Tevi Troy.

“It would be strange to mark every hundred thousand deaths,” said Troy, who wrote a book on how presidents have responded to crises. “It’s an acknowledgment of failure almost every time you get that new number before all zeros.”

Troy said he understood why Biden’s first instinct was to mark the milestones. It was a break from his predecessor who did not recognize them, and when Biden took office it was felt that vaccines would soon end the crisis.

When running for office, Joe Biden frequently began quoting the number of COVID deaths from a card he carried in his pocket. This file photo is from 09.09.2020.

Patrick Semansky / AP


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Patrick Semansky / AP


When running for office, Joe Biden frequently began quoting the number of COVID deaths from a card he carried in his pocket. This file photo is from 09.09.2020.

Patrick Semansky / AP

“We in the United States have a way of commemorating events,” said David Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning medical historian at NYU. “In general, we remember them when they are over.”

With the end of polio in sight, President Eisenhower held an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1955 to honor Jonas Salk, the man who developed the life-saving vaccine.

“It was like commemorating the end of World War I,” said Oshinsky. “I mean, a war was won. A medical war against an insidious cripple, it was won.”

But this is not the moment. Biden should hold back on another memorial until COVID is less scary and killing a lot fewer people, Oshinsky said, as the commemorations lose their impact with each public memorial.

Bringing attention to COVID deaths may not be a political winner

Still, bringing more attention to the lives lost could have an impact, said Joshua Sharfstein, who specializes in public health at Johns Hopkins University and served in the Obama administration. He said losing a loved one, regardless of your politics, is terrible, so it could help heal a nation divided over COVID.

“I think there is an opportunity to use the common pain people feel to try to bring the country together,” Sharfstein said.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees. If Biden talked more about the deceased – 400,000 since he took office – he could get people to get vaccinated, Luntz said. But the focus on COVID, the failure to contain it, and the number of people still dying is not a political winner.

“As a political advisor, I would tell him that if you want to become a statesman, talk about these important milestones,” said Luntz. “If you want to be re-elected, ignore them.”



Source link

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

Related Posts

Enter our 

Las Vegas!

Luxury Resort Stay Giveaway