President Biden's pessimism is not at odds with his previous statements and commitments.
On January 22, 2021, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders to combat hunger and financial instability. While speaking about the orders, he said: "Approximately 14 million Americans — 14 million — have fallen behind on rent, and many risk eviction. If we fail to act, there’ll be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on, because there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months."
The statement "there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months" was shared by many on social media criticizing Biden and saying that this is the exact opposite of what Biden has been promising during his campaign. However, during Biden's campaign, he often explained the different strategies he would employ to correct the situation, but he never said that the situation would change overnight or as soon as he enters the office. At the same time, since Biden took office, he has been fulfilling on his campaign promises related to Covid by singing executive orders and implementing rules.
Associated Press reported that Chris Lu, a longtime Obama administration official, said the grim tone is aimed at “restoring trust in government” that eroded during the Trump administration. He further said that Biden is using "a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver." The report further stated that a day before Biden made that statement, he said that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better” and offered “the brutal truth” that it will take eight months before a majority of Americans will be vaccinated. Furthermore, according to an article by Politico from November 2020, "Biden urged Americans to look past the current crisis, even as he admitted that the recovery wouldn’t be quick." On January 22, 20021, CNBC reported that "The president has repeatedly warned that the situation is likely to worsen before it improves."
Former President Donald Trump during the whole of 2020 claimed that they would soon "prevail" over the virus while the country's situation worsened each day. Trump’s misleading statements and underplaying the virus's seriousness contributed to poor adherence to public safety rules among the American public. AP reported that former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told them: "Trump’s handling of the virus caused so much damage to public perceptions of its severity that it’s important for Biden to set a contrasting tone."
AP further reported that Biden's aides have said that Biden decided to set clear and achievable goals for his new administration. His administration has pledged 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, which many experts have deemed doable while others have considered being doable but is the bare minimum for what is needed in the US right now.
Biden's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, also clarified the president's message. "I believe President Biden made it very clear, the plane is in a nosedive, and we gotta pull it up. And you’re not going to do that overnight," Becerra told "State of the Union" host Dana Bash on CNN. "But we're gonna pull it up, we have to pull it up. Failure's not an option here, and so we will."
When asked if that means he believes the administration can indeed change the pandemic's trajectory, Becerra reiterated that it would not happen "overnight," but said that progress is possible if people work together.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.