Opinion | ‘We Have to Start Treating This as the National Emergency It Is.’

By Ezra Klein

I’ve never covered a moment that simultaneously merits so much despair and so much hope. It’s dizzying. The Biden administration takes office with over 25 million Covid-19 cases nationwide, over 420,000 Americans dead, and new, highly contagious variants of the virus stalking our future. It’s as grim a situation as I’ve seen.

But for the first time, we can do more than hide. We can immunize. Getting a population of 330 million to herd immunity is a hellishly difficult undertaking in the best of circumstances, and these are not the best of circumstances. Still, speed matters: Getting to herd immunity a few months faster could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Dr. Vivek Murthy was surgeon general under Barack Obama, and is Joe Biden’s nominee for the same position. He’s also co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force.

In this episode, Murthy walks me through the Biden administration’s plan to beat the coronavirus. We discuss America’s botched vaccine rollout efforts, what the choke points are now, whether the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be approved, why the U.S. government should be shipping out free masks, what’s blocking 24/7 vaccination sites, the F.D.A.’s overly conservative approach to at-home testing kits, what we can and can’t do after getting the vaccine, the vaccine failures in blue states, how to change the minds of the nearly third of Americans who are vaccine-skeptical, why persuasion is as much about listening as talking, the new coronavirus variants, and much more.

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“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Roge Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

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