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COVID-19: Biden administration has been 'a little bit behind the curve' on the pandemic

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Yahoo News reporter Andrew Romano discusses the Biden's administration's pandemic response, Americans' frustration with COVID-19 testing, and the demand for masks.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Joining us now is Yahoo News correspondent Andrew Romano. And Andrew, we're talking about a number of challenges. It feels like things swinging from month to month. This month, it's been about testing. It's about getting those vaccines and those boosters. How should we be looking at this year one of the president's performance on the pandemic?

ANDREW ROMANO: Yeah, Joe Biden came into office saying that he was going to overcome the deadly virus. That has not been the case. He did an excellent job, as you said, speeding those vaccines out. Only 5% vaccinated when he took office. Now we've got more than 3/4 of the public with at least one dose. The problem is the virus itself keeps changing. The challenges keep changing. The Biden administration has said that they did not see the Delta variant coming. They did not see the Omicron variant coming.

And with each of those evolutions in the viruses, the virus has presented a new challenge to the administration right now. Testing is that major challenge. We have seen the long lines over the holidays when Omicron took off. The rapid tests were not available. The PCR tests, long waits made them essentially useless. And so the administration now has shifted, focused on those rapid tests, is sending them out at least four to every household in the United States, but is a little bit behind the curve.

And I think that has been the thing about the administration. They have not foreseen what is coming next with this virus. You could say that maybe no one could foresee what was coming next. But they have been a little bit slow to respond, a little bit unclear in the communication. And that has frustrated Americans who just want things to get back to normal. They're seeing you a year later after Biden took office, there are still 2,000 Americans dying every day of COVID. And the fact is we're still in a pandemic.

So the challenges change, the administration tries to respond. They're a little bit behind the curve. And people are unhappy about that.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Andrew, quick follow up. I heard from a senior citizen who's upset that the push to have insurance companies cover the cost of an over-the-counter COVID-19 test, Medicare doesn't cover it. And yet, senior citizens are the most vulnerable and perhaps most likely, unfortunately, to have a severe outcome if they get sick. So this doesn't make sense. Has the administration addressed that?

ANDREW ROMANO: Yeah, it's incredibly frustrating. I think when the administration first was trying to respond to the demand, vastly increased demand for testing, and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, came out and said, what are we supposed to do, send it to every American? They came out with a plan to allow you to go through the cumbersome process of getting it reimbursed by insurance. That's just not going to work for most Americans. And they've basically realized that at this point with the website to allow every household's order for free tests, that's how simple and easy things need to be to actually combat a surge in the virus.

We're seeing that now with the N95 masks. They've finally come around to the view that you need medical grade masks, not cloth masks, and that you need to provide those, make those easy and accessible for Americans, at pharmacies, at community health centers, for free, not going online and trying to figure out, is this a fake one? Is this a real one? What Amazon vendor should I order it from?

So they're coming around to this view that they've got to make it as frictionless as possible for Americans. But it's not going to do much to combat Omicron at this point. We're already sort of turning the corner on the surge itself. And so it's a little bit-- it's the right idea. But again, it's a little bit behind the curve.