'Doom' fears bring grim reminders of COVID realities: The Note

RICK KLEIN, ALISA WIERSEMA and MEG CUNNINGHAM
·7 min read

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The message hasn't really changed: wear a mask, get vaccinated, listen to experts. And it appears to be working.

But the alarms sounded by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as echoed by President Joe Biden, are reminders of the precarious nature of this moment regarding COVID-19. The Biden White House is now battling complacency in addition to politics, and cautioning against any sense that the pandemic is over.

"The war against COVID-19 is far from won," Biden said Monday, in encouraging governors to keep or reinstate mask mandates and announcing a strategic change in federal vaccination programs. "As much as we're doing, America, it's time to do even more."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds up a face mask as he delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the state of vaccinations on March 29, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds up a face mask as he delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the state of vaccinations on March 29, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Polls have consistently shown public trust in Biden's leadership on COVID and vaccine distribution. But they have also shown partisan splits in willingness to follow health officials' recommendations, as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell hinted at Monday in specifically encouraging "Republican men" to get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization is formally releasing its investigation into the origins of the pandemic. With former Trump administration officials making news with candid assessments about how the early months were handled, it might feel like a moment to look back instead of look forward.

Five days ago, Biden stood for more than an hour of questions and didn't get a single one about COVID. You can blame a relentless news cycle, or reporters for not asking about it, or even take that as a good sign about the country's mood at the moment.

Biden would love to talk about other priorities, including the infrastructure proposal he is set to outline Wednesday. But he needs to keep talking about the pandemic, as he and his aides are quite aware.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

Overnight, the seven-week-long voting period at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, came to a close.

But in what has become a familiar theme throughout pandemic-era elections, the results of this count won't be known for at least another week as more than 5,800 workers at the facility face the prospects of creating the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States.

The tabulation delay is likely to stem from challenges over factors like improper job classification or ineligibility due to employment dates. Both Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union -- the group from which Bessemer facility workers in favor of unionizing are seeking representation -- can raise these concerns before the vote tally is finalized.

Michael Foster of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union holds a sign on Feb. 9, 2021, outside an Amazon facility where labor is trying to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama. (Jay Reeves/AP)
Michael Foster of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union holds a sign on Feb. 9, 2021, outside an Amazon facility where labor is trying to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama. (Jay Reeves/AP)

Beyond Alabama, the Bessemer warehouse election has already put labor law reform on the political map by giving common ground to the White House and party progressives.

Biden weighed in on the election with a supportive video message last month, in which he reiterated his administration's policy of supporting union organization and collective bargaining. Meanwhile, high-profile progressives mobilized to highlight the impact of the pandemic on the working conditions of the predominantly Black workers at the Bessemer facility, which culminated in a Friday visit from Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the most vocal political critics of Amazon's attempts to block unionization.

"This campaign has already been a victory in many ways. Even though we don't know how the vote will turn out, we believe we have opened the door to more organizing around the country," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU said in a statement.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

After a censure by the state GOP and a vow to unseat her, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is facing her first potential 2022 opponent in Kelly Tshibaka.

Alaska's all-party primary and ranked-choice general election means that Tshibaka won't face Murkowski directly in a primary, but her campaign launch made clear who she is running against, calling out Murkowski for her decision to vote with "D.C. insiders." Murkowski crossed party lines in February when she voted to convict former President Donald Trump with incitement of insurrection.

Trump unleashed his ire on Murkowski the same way he did with other Republicans who voted to impeach or convict him by promising primary challenges to those who did not stick with him until the very end. Tshibaka makes no mention of Trump in her campaign launch, something unique as Trump allies have been jumping into high-profile congressional races across the country, but she did appear to side with him on the issue of election integrity by espousing a number of false theories about fraud in the November election.

Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka addresses reporters in Anchorage on Sept. 26, 2019. She announced plans on March 29, 2021, to run for the Senate seat held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Republican, in the 2022 election.  (Mark Thiessen/AP)
Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka addresses reporters in Anchorage on Sept. 26, 2019. She announced plans on March 29, 2021, to run for the Senate seat held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a fellow Republican, in the 2022 election. (Mark Thiessen/AP)

Trump hasn't weighed in on the Alaska race aside from a promise to unseat Murkowski, but it appears Tshibaka will have the backing of top Trump advisers: Politico reported Monday afternoon that former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, along with a number of other Trump alums, will serve as advisers to her campaign.

ONE MORE THING

After early primary defeats in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Joe Biden staked his bid for the presidency on the voters of South Carolina. They delivered for him; now, many are looking to him to return the favor. Biden has surpassed two months in the White House and ABC News Live returned to the state that helped reinvigorate his faltering 2020 campaign to hear directly from voters about where he is meeting expectations, where he may be missing the mark and their feelings about the direction of the country in the post-Donald Trump era.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News' Whitney Lloyd, who recaps the first day Derek Chauvin's murder trial in Minneapolis. ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs explains why the CDC director feels a sense of "impending doom" around a possible COVID surge. And ABC News' Briana Stewart tells us what post-Civil War history tells us about how new strict voting laws in Georgia could impact the Black community. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson" podcast. By the mid-60s, you can hear a growing distance between Lady Bird and the protest movement that's sweeping the country. Bird's a true believer in progressive causes -- civil rights, environmentalism -- but she's also the product of her own generation and background. On a trip to two New England colleges to give speeches supporting their new environmental studies programs, Lady Bird is confronted by outspoken dissent from both students and faculty who walk out of her speeches, picket her presence and circulate letters denouncing the war in Vietnam. Lady Bird feels increasingly under siege, even as she vows not to retreat into a bubble in the White House. But then dissent comes to lunch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, when singer, actor and activist Eartha Kitt participates in one of Lady Bird's "Doers Luncheons" and delivers a fierce critique of the war and its effect on young Black men. The resulting media backlash, fueled by the White House PR machine, is swift and brutal, effectively derailing Kitt's career for decades to come. https://abcaudio.com/podcasts/in-plain-sight/

ABC News' "Soul of a Nation" series. The six-episode, primetime series presents viewers with a unique window into authentic realities of Black life and dives deeper into this critical moment of racial reckoning. This week's episode examines the historic role sports have played in America's racial reckoning and the seismic shift Black athletes are provoking in this current moment. It features interviews with WNBA player Renee Montgomery, UCLA gymnasts Nia Dennis and Margzetta Frazier, decorated Olympian Dominique Dawes and NBA players Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Plus, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar award-winning rapper/actor Common gives a special first look from his upcoming new album that will be released this spring. "Soul of a Nation" airs Tuesday nights in March on ABC. Episodes can also be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu. https://abcn.ws/2O1B9im

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff visits a COVID-19 vaccination site in Silver Spring, Maryland, at 10 a.m. with Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive the president's daily brief at 10:15 a.m. The president signs the PPP Extension Act of 2021 into law at 2 p.m., the vice president and administrator of the Small Business Administration attend. White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 12:30 p.m.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

'Doom' fears bring grim reminders of COVID realities: The Note originally appeared on abcnews.go.com