Biden grapples with a ‘pandemic of unvaccinated’

Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deaths — and the limitations of his ability to combat persistent vaccine hesitancy.

Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalisations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trend and what they consider needless illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks.

“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Mr. Biden said on Friday.

The rising numbers are being driven by large pockets of infection among the over 90 million Americans who have yet to get shots. Just four states with low vaccination rates made up 40% of new cases last week, and nearly half of them came from Florida alone.

However, there is little appetite in the White House for a return to broad mandates for masks.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday that in low-vaccination areas with rising cases, “local policymakers might consider whether masking would be be helpful for their community.”

Biden grapples with a ‘pandemic of unvaccinated’