President Joe Biden defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus, even as the United States reached a record number of cases and hospitalizations.
“I’m confident we are on the right track,” Biden said to reporters at the White House.
The president pulled his mask down to his chin so that reporters could see him speak but ultimately admitted it “looked stupid” and removed his mask entirely.
Biden said he was concerned about the pandemic “worldwide” but said he was pleased with the amount of federal help to states who were struggling with the virus.
More than 145,900 people were in U.S. hospitals with coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, beating the previous pandemic peak set in January 2021.
Cases of the virus have exploded, as John Hopkins University reports more than 700,000 cases daily, roughly three times it was during the winter in 2021.
The president spoke to reporters about the battle with the virus as he left Washington, DC, to deliver a speech condemning election security laws in Georgia.
In December, Biden warned of “a winter of severe illness and death” but failed to meet increased demands for more testing, monoclonal antibody treatments, and newly developed anti-viral drugs approved to treat the virus.
The emergence of the omicron variant caught Biden off-guard over the Thanksgiving holiday as it now represents 98.3 percent of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. last week.
The White House continues to struggle with messaging on the virus, as Biden’s former medical advisers penned a series of opinion articles criticizing his approach.
The group, led by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, called for the administration to move away from “a perpetual state of emergency” and realize the “new normal” of living with the virus and reducing its risks to the vulnerable.
The White House ignored their advice, repeatedly urging Americans to get triple-vaccinated to help reduce the severity of coronavirus symptoms.