It‘s tough to say what the United States’ haphazard Covid protocol exists for these days, other than as a makeshift tool to restrict immigration.
Over the past year or so, the United States' ongoing Covid fight has been hampered by Americans unwilling to follow health guidelines, like masking, social distancing, and getting vaccinated. It no longer feels as if there's a coherent anti-Covid message coming from the federal government. Lawmakers have refused to fund Covid safety measures adequately. And the president, for his part, prematurely declared the pandemic “over” months ago.
But the U.S. is taking an entirely different — dare I say, hysterical — approach to so-called health safety measures when it comes to the people (mostly, nonwhite people) hoping to enter the country.
On Wednesday, for example, the Biden administration announced a new rule requiring all travelers from China — and China only, including its territories Hong Kong and Macau — to present a negative Covid test before entering the United States. In a statement, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new restrictions were needed because of China’s “lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data.”
It is true China has recently seen a spike in Covid cases, with some Americans raising questions about Chinese officials’ sincerity and methods of tracking infections. (On the other hand, plenty of U.S. officials have seemed similarly interested in downplaying Covid’s impacts and obscuring the truth about its harm.)
Unfortunately, the CDC’s announcement is reminiscent of the “travel ban” former President Donald Trump slapped on travelers from China back in 2020. Trump bragged about the policy, and it certainly suited his administration’s anti-Chinese bigotry. But as Thomas J. Bollyky and Jennifer B. Nuzzo wrote for The Washington Post in fall of 2020, “restricting flights from China did nothing to prevent the virus from arriving from other parts of the world.”
The announcement's timing couldn't be worse. The Biden administration picked a particularly ill-advised month to lean into jingoistic health policy.
This week, the Supreme Court ruled Title 42, the racist pandemic-era immigration policy devised by Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who used white nationalist sources in shaping policy, must stay in effect. And next week, Republicans will take control of the House, allowing them to open conspiratorial probes into the spread of Covid-19.
Americans deserve a more coherent Covid strategy — for everyone. What we've got instead is jingoistic, reactionary and inhumane policy for minorities and the most vulnerable.