Is Biden Right? Can Governors Do More?

When President Joe Biden met with 25 U.S. governors on December 27, 2021, to discuss the current state of COVID-19 in the United States, despite all that was discussed, the issue the media focused on was President Biden’s comment that there is “no federal solution” for COVID-19, “this gets solved at the state level”, and “We have to do more. We have to do better. And we will”.

Every state in the U.S. has had differing reactions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states, such as Washington, have imposed stiff restrictions, while states like Florida and Texas have lifted all restrictions and even hindered the imposition of mask mandates. The federal government can impose restrictions and mandates for federally run programs or departments, however, for everything else, the decision rests with state and county level governments. This can make it extremely challenging for the federal government to influence COVID-19 response efforts when multiple jurisdictions across the country do not want to, or have to, follow the administration’s recommendations. 

Additionally, cases, hospitalizations, and death counts across the country vary wildly, and are wholly dependent on how the state government has viewed and dealt with the pandemic. Just as COVID has affected communities differently, there is no one solution to deal with it that would come from the federal government. The federal government can, however, provide guidance, moral support and an array of federal resources to support local response operations. President Biden’s speech acknowledged the limitations of the federal government, which would hopefully remind Americans that it is ultimately up to state and county level officials to implement COVID response activities. 

When President Biden met with half of the nation’s governors, as part of the administration’s COVID-19 Response Team, he told them that “if you need something, say something. We are going to have your back”. Illustrating what the federal government can do, he mentioned that more testing sites will be coming. He said, “ I know the lines have gotten very long in some states. That’s why I ordered FEMA to set up pop up sites in places with high demand to shorten the wait. We stood up 60 sites in New York City in five days and there are more coming.”

State governors have a great deal of power, and can change the course of the pandemic through supporting and promoting vaccinations, masking, and protecting K12 students. Additionally, governors can work directly with private businesses to resolve resource and staffing shortages. As President Biden has placed full responsibility on the governors, it is more important than ever that they utilize the resources that have been provided by the federal government, and billions of dollars remain unspent and readily available.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Good Morning America “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s for sure.” With the power that governors have, it is an essential time for them to step up and implement a strategic plan that includes and promotes vaccinations, preventative measures such as masking, protection for students, and availability of COVID-19 testing. 

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