From the Politics & Ideas Team:
The Biden administration has long said it wants to follow the science on covid, but it’s clear that the omicron wave means it needs to balance multiple needs from around the country. It’s pushing to keep schools open, but many localities are seeing closures anyway as staffing shortages due to illness are on the rise. The administration just rolled out a new program that allows the privately insured to get reimbursed for rapid tests, but there’s still a shortage of tests to go around. The administration unveiled its new means of ordering rapid tests from covidtests.gov, but the first orders likely won’t ship until the end of the month. President Joe Biden also said he would announce “how we’re making high-quality masks available to the American people for free,” even as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky indicates they’d rather put emphasis on the developing “any mask is better than no mask” approach.
The public clearly wants the Biden administration to do more on covid, and we’ll be watching this week to see if the rollout of new ways to access tests and masks are as rocky as the rest of the omicron wave. The covid situation is still a political one, and Biden’s disapproval rating seems to be following covid case numbers.
From the Global Team:
We’re watching the Ukraine showdown — stakes high and tensions rising, as Russia sees a “dead end” on the diplomatic front and Ukraine gets hit with cyberattacks. Josh Keating’s take on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine “game” and strategy looks more relevant by the hour. Then, having done a deep dive on what a U.S.-China flashpoint may look like — namely, if diplomacy fails over Taiwan, we’ll hear from longtime scholar Orville Schell on possible offramps for conflict. Meanwhile, at the one-year-in mark for the Biden administration, this question: Why does some of Biden’s foreign policy look like Donald Trump’s? And stay tuned for a Grid 360 treatment of the global trafficking in stolen antiquities, the nexus to terrorism and (the good news) why so many ancient artifacts are finally being returned to their countries of origin.
From the Science Team:
As the omicron wave sweeps the nation, we’re watching this week to see if cases really are beginning to peak in the parts of the country where the variant hit first. That includes Boston, where wastewater sampling shows a sharp decline in virus levels, and New York, where Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday that the state’s health leaders were seeing signs of a case slowdown. That doesn’t mean we can relax just yet, though — here in Washington, D.C., our omicron surge appears to finally be slowing, but hospitals in the area are still treating record numbers of covid patients. (Jonathan Lambert, our public health reporter, talked to an ER doc in hard-hit Rhode Island about how hospitals are handling the omicron influx.) And of course there are many parts of the country where the surge hasn’t yet peaked.
From the Investigations Team:
We’ll be looking to Capitol Hill this week, where House Democrats will be using the anniversary of Biden’s inauguration to spotlight the haggard state of American democracy. Hearings are often more show than substance, but with the stakes as high as they are, the question is whether a pair of Jan. 20 hearings will dig deep and bring new facts to light. Thursday morning, we’ll be following the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on “voter suppression and continuing threats to democracy,” (especially in light of discussions surrounding Investigative Reporter Steve Reilly’s recent piece on H.R.1), and that afternoon we’ll watch the Homeland Security Committee’s panel on “protecting threats to election infrastructure and voter confidence” while continuing to reflect on Investigative Reporter Jason Paladino’s piece on the FBI’s failure to predict or prevent the events of Jan. 6, 2021.