Shortly after President Biden took office, I started asking his staff why their publicly announced target for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine – an average of one million shots per day – was so low. ambitious. The pace was not much faster than what the Trump administration had achieved in its final days, and it was well below the rate at which vaccine makers would deliver doses to the government. Based on that delivery schedule, a reasonable target seemed to be three million shots per day.
White House officials responded by citing the logistical challenges of awarding so many blows. But they never explicitly denied that three million daily shots were realistic. The answer left me suspecting that their real goal was closer to three million than one million, but that they wanted to set a public goal that they could easily erase.
Whatever you think of the PR strategy (and I tend to prefer transparency over artificially low expectations), the administration has now hit three million snaps a day. And that deserves to be commended for getting there so quickly.
To do so, it took a campaign that resembles a wartime mobilization in its speed and complexity. He involved state and local governments as well as the private sector. It combined existing infrastructure such as pharmacies with brand new mass vaccination clinics in sports stadiums and amusement parks.
In the past five days alone, more than 5% of Americans have received a vaccine. In total, nearly a third of Americans have now received at least one injection. That’s more, per capita, than in any other major country other than Great Britain. Canada and mainland Europe are far behind – and Australia, Brazil, China, India and Russia have been even slower.
A surge avoided, so far
Without the acceleration of vaccinations, the number of new cases of Covid in the United States would almost certainly have increased in recent weeks, as is the case in much of the world. Instead, new US cases have leveled off. They remain alarming, but the widely predicted spring surge has not happened – at least so far.
Perhaps more importantly, deaths continue to drop, in part because many of the most vulnerable Americans, such as those over 65, have received at least one injection:
And now? Four millions.
Now that the country has hit three million shots per day, what should the new target be? There are parts to the answer.
First, a more equitable distribution of vaccines would both be fairer and save more lives, say epidemiologists. In many low-income communities – of all races, but disproportionately black and Latino – fewer people received vaccines than in affluent communities. Think of it this way: Many low-risk affluent people have received one or two vaccines, even though many older people in poorer communities have still not been vaccinated.
One of the main reasons is vaccine reluctance, which is on the decline but remains a significant problem, especially among Americans without a college degree. A second reason is logistical: it’s easier for professionals to spend time trying to register for a shot – and then go get one – than workers who are paid by the hour. The solution, according to many experts, should be to introduce more vaccines to communities with low vaccination rates and to facilitate vaccination.
The second part of the answer is that three million shots a day won’t stay impressive for long. Four million will be a more reasonable target within a few weeks. Why? Combined, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer will deliver more than four million shots per day this spring. There is no good reason for the guns to languish in storage when the world is in a race against more contagious and severe variants of the virus.
A spring surge in the United States remains possible. The sooner vaccines get into people’s arms, the more Americans will survive this pandemic.
Related: The number of cases is increasing in those US states where the variants are most common, as these charts show.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
The origins of ‘cancel’
In the 80s, a bad date inspired musician Nile Rodgers to write a song. The track “Your Love Is Canceled” played on the idea of ”canceling” a person for misconduct, as Clyde McGrady writes in the Washington Post.
The phrase stuck everywhere: Rappers and reality TV stars used it, and its popularity exploded once black Twitter users started saying it. On social media at the time, canceling someone or something “was more like changing the channel – and telling your friends and subscribers – than demanding that TV executives stop the show.” McGrady writes. This has changed in recent years.
Like much black slang, the term was appropriated by whites and has since strayed from its more innocuous origins. He has become highly politicized, applied to everything from public figures accused of sexual assault to sex toys Potato Head. It has followed a similar trajectory to the term “awakened,” which black activists popularized. That term has now evolved into a “one-word synthesis of leftist political ideology,” as Vox reports.
While these are some of the last terms removed from black culture, they won’t be the last. “One of the greatest exports of American culture,” a linguistics professor told the Post, “is the African American language.”
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangrams were captain rank and inability. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini crosswords and a hint: Kate Middleton’s sister (five letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.