Biden's 'victory' over COVID is hard to distinguish from defeat

Dr. Siegel on dropping COVID restrictions

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on countries dropping COVID restrictions, additional vaccine boosters, and how cancer screenings declined during the lockdown

During President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address, he may choose to declare victory over COVID-19.

For sure, case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID have fallen dramatically in recent weeks, and we should give the Biden Administration credit for utilizing President Donald Trump’s successful development of safe and effective vaccines to vaccinate close to 70 percent of all eligible Americans.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a virtual meeting about mineral supply chains and clean energy manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex February 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, President Biden spoke about the Ukraine-Russia crisis and announced a first round of sanctions against Russia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The appropriate question to pose at this juncture, however, is at what cost has victory been won? When one examines Biden’s “victory” in detail, to include the tally of COVID cases and fatalities, its impact on the disruption of primary and secondary education for a generation of our youth, skyrocketing drug overdose deaths and related behavioral health issues, and inflation and deficits now at the highest levels in decades, it is, indeed, hard to “distinguish it from defeat.” If the Biden team’s COVID response strategy had achieved any identifiable positive outcomes for all of this ruin, then admiration may be in order. 

But it did not. Here are some of the details:

COVID-19 cases and fatalities increased significantly.

During the Biden Administration’s close to 400 days leading America’s COVID-19 response, the U.S. experienced over 135,000 COVID-19 cases, and over 1325 COVID-19 deaths, per day. These numbers represent twice the number of cases, and 20 percent more deaths, per day than we experienced during the year in which the Trump Administration was in charge of the nation’s COVID response. This outcome is all the more perplexing given the advantage of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and knowledge of the virus granted to the Biden team when it took office.

Learning loss has been significant.

In July of 2021, my former colleagues at McKinsey & Company released a report after having analyzed data from Curriculum Associates, which had assessed COVID-related learning loss among 1.6 million students in more than 40 states. The results were grim: in one year’s time, students on average fell behind by five months in math and four months in reading. Moreover, this learning loss was more pronounced in minority students. In a more recent study released by NWEA in December of 2021 assessing over 6 million students, declines in achievement seemed to accelerate and ranged from 3-7 percentile points (~10 percent) in reading and 9-11 percentile points (~20 percent) in math. Again, these declines were more pronounced in minorities.

Drug overdoses skyrocketed, while overall mental health deteriorated.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks drug overdose deaths each year starting in July and ending the following June. In 2019, it reported just under 69,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2021, this figure had jumped to just over 101,000 deaths, or a 47 percent increase. While we may not be able attribute this entire increase to COVID, the 2-year period between 2019-2021 coinciding with the advent and spread of COVID represented the CDC’s largest ever recorded increase in overdose deaths, and the increase between 2020-2021 was significantly larger than the increase from 2019-2020. Beyond the increase in overdose deaths, the American Psychological Association noted in reviewing the National Center for Health Statistics data in November 2021 that the prevalence of anxiety and depression among American adults had both jumped by 200-300% over their 2019 levels.

COVID-induced inflation and deficits soared.

In late March of 2021, during an interview on Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week, Larry Summers, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, referred to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as “the least responsible macroeconomic policy we’ve had in 40 years.” He predicted it would lead to higher inflation and indeed it did. When one looks at the debt-financed distribution of ARPA’s $1.9 trillion, no one should be surprised. Only nine percent of it went to fighting COVID, while the majority of it was used to either subsidize those out of the workforce or to help many financially irresponsible states narrow their budget gaps. By igniting a rate of 7.5 percent year-on-year inflation, 330 million Americans are now feeling the pain of Biden’s COVID-related policies.

The devastating impact of COVID, regardless of who was president, would have been tragic. But there is growing evidence that the Biden administration’s response strategy exacerbated the pandemic’s educational, emotional, and economic devastation without mitigating COVID cases and fatalities. 

In the fall of 2020, the Trump Administration was adopting a strategy which focused on protecting those most vulnerable to COVID while letting our economy, schools, and the daily lives of Americans carry on normally. The Biden folks adopted an alternative strategy focused on bans, mandates, shutdowns, and the complete eradication of the virus at any cost. That cost has been astronomical, and the virus has been anything but eradicated.

Pyrrhus, the third century BC Greek military commander once commented “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” Let’s hope the Biden team understands that if it chooses to declare victory during the president’s first State of the Union address, it will be Pyrrhic at best.

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