WASHINGTON — “We need to step back from the pandemic,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Monday outside the West Wing, shortly after the group he leads, the National Governors Association, met with President Biden at the White House .
“We’ve asked the president to help us provide clear guidance on how we can return to a great state of normalcy,” added Hutchinson, a Republican.
Next to Hutchinson was New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Democratic Vice President of the NGA who was recently re-elected by a wafer-thin margin† Democrats are increasingly concerned that they are moving too slowly to get out of the pandemic could cost them in the November midterm elections†
“We are not going to bring this to zero. We have to learn to live with that.” Murphy said during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press,” become the last Democratic elected official to move away from the cautious approach that has characterized the party’s pandemic response for more than two years.
In December, Colorado Governor Jared Polis declined to carry out a new statewide mask mandate, declaring “the end of the medical emergency.” And in New York City, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams has urged to keep the city open. “We are tired of being prisoners of COVID, so let’s be smart” Adams said earlier this month:†
“We are seeing a sea change in Democratic politics,” Dr. Jay Battacharya, a Stanford professor who was critical of security restrictions such as school closures and mask mandates, told Yahoo News.
Recent polls suggest Americans are trying to move away from the strict measures imposed to fight COVID-19. A Monmouth survey released Monday found that 70 percent of Americans believe that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and that we should just get on with our lives.”
Hutchinson has taken a moderate tone in fighting COVID, saying he regretted signing a ban on mask mandates in schools. Other prominent Republican governors, like Greg Abbott from Texas and Ron DeSantis from Floridahave urged to ban mask mandates in their states.
“Obviously you can’t move away from a virus that’s still there,” Hutchinson acknowledged Monday.
Although the Omicron wave seems to be waning, a new variant could complicate things — even if it ultimately can’t dampen many Americans’ impatience to travel, gather, and take off their masks.
“People are striving for a more normal life,” Hutchinson said. Murphy said the governors had “a good discussion” about “the road from pandemic to endemic”, after which the coronavirus does not require strict action.
Biden first stated on July 4 that “independence” from the coronavirus was imminent. Since then, two spikes have frustrated his promise to get the pandemic under control. His administration has remained cautious, even as the realization has grown that the current state of affairs is no longer tenable.
“This is not the new normal we live in right now,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing minutes later. However, she also made it clear that the present moment would continue to exist. “The president believes that at this point we still need to keep our heads down and hold on,” she said.