With Omicron cases in decline, America is entering a new phase in this pandemic. But getting to this point has not been easy. Democrats have done much heavy lifting, working tirelessly to give Americans the tools to fight the virus and create a strong, durable economy. They have done this by providing vaccinations, masks, testing and stimulus funding. Once children under five are able to get vaccinated, we should all take a deep breath and embrace a "vaxxed and relaxed" lifestyle.
This is coming none too soon for Democrats who desperately need a positive narrative to sell voters ahead of a must-win midterm election. This cycle is going to be a referendum on our pandemic recovery. The good news for congressional races is Democrats have done so much to keep our country safe and prosperous during this pandemic. The opportunity here is making sure that voters actually know what we have done — and perhaps more importantly, feel good about where our country is — by November 2022.
Investing in people — providing vaccines, masks and testing to the public — has helped people get back to school, work safely and see their loved ones. By providing the American people the means to keep themselves safe from the virus, they created opportunities for all to prosper in the strongest economy in the world.
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Our governors have been following CDC mandates and recommendations resulting in mitigating the spread and minimizing death among vaccinated individuals. As of this writing, Democratic governors in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and New Mexico have all loosened their own COVID rules. Because mitigation strategies worked, states have the ability and resources to manage the pandemic on their own, while the federal government remains vigilant in fighting the virus, providing support and resources.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) are leading the way to a vaxxed and relaxed lifestyle. Polis understands governors have to adapt to changing circumstances and will eventually have to move to endemic protocols. As such he has moved away from emergency response allowing local governments to make their own determinations on COVID restrictions. Newsom is going even further. California is the first U.S. state to formally move toward an "endemic" approach to the coronavirus. They are implementing a strategy that focuses on a swift response to outbreaks and a shift away from pandemic mandates.
Under the leadership of President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the federal government has provided free Vaccines and boosters to anyone who wants them over the age of five years old. In April, children under the age of five should have access to vaccines. Also under Secretary Becerra's leadership, the federal government has made free COVID tests and N95 masks available.
Most importantly, we have closed the vaccination gap for people of color. In January, Asian, Hispanic and Black people had larger increases in vaccination rates compared to white people. All of this is particularly amazing when you remember that there was literally no federal plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution under the Trump administration.
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Our flourishing economy and getting people back to work are the real proof points of vaccination and masking success. Following science led to historic small business creation and the strongest economy in the world.
Despite Omicron, we were able to bring the unemployment rates in 12 states down to historically low levels. Employers added 467,000 jobs in January alone, and average hourly earnings are up 5.7% over the last year. We are also seeing historic small business creation. There were also 5.4 million applications to start companies in 2021, a 53% jump from pre-pandemic levels. A third of these new businesses are likely to create jobs.
We are able to begin relaxing restrictions because our mitigation strategies worked and are popular. A recent Navigator poll found voters trust Democrats more to combat the coronavirus, by 14 percentage points. One in four Americans say Republican elected officials are trying to let the pandemic spread through the community, including 25% of independents.
Sadly, the GOP remains the single biggest impediment to our ability to vaxx and relax. Their message to the American people has been consistent: in this pandemic you are on your own. Not a single Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan, which provided desperately needed support to states and money directly to the people struggling during this pandemic. Since Joe Biden took office, Republicans have opposed providing any direct relief to Americans. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick suggested that sacrificing "lots of grandparents'' to keep the economy was a sound strategy. Perhaps worst of all is how their unrelenting stance against critical basic health recommendations — including vaccines and masks — has prolonged our pain and added to infection and death rates.
Republicans have consistently worked against the mitigation strategies that stopped the spread and have moved us toward endemic status. The GOP has consistently left Americans out to dry and on their own.
America has endured a deep collective trauma during the last couple of years. No one has been spared the pain brought on by COVID. But as always, Americans have risen to the occasion. Despite adversity and hardship they have found ways to thrive. Joe Biden and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra focused on doing the heavy lifting; they invested in people. In April when all children under five are able to get vaccinated, we will have all earned the right to "vaxx and relax."
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