by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden could risk his entire first-term agenda if he fails to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, experts said.
The embattled president is plummeting in the polls amid multiple crises -- his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, skyrocketing urban crime and a crisis at the U.S. southern border, to name a few.
But the most pressing concern for the president remains the surging Delta variant, which is running rampant among the unvaccinated, analysts warned.
Indeed, a recent poll from Quinnipiac, a leading polling university, found last week that just 38 percent of Americans believe the president is doing a good job, down from 42 percent just three weeks ago.
Moreover, only a quarter approved of the president's handling of immigration, 39 percent approved of his handling of the economy and 37 percent approved of him as Commander-in-Chief, the poll found.
"Battered on trust, doubted on leadership, and challenged on overall competency, President Biden is being hammered on all sides as his approval rating continues its downward slide to a number not seen since the tough scrutiny of the Trump administration," Quinnipiac said, referring to former President Donald Trump.
The key to a comeback is getting the Delta surge under control, analysts said.
But millions of Americans continue to decline the jab on fears of possible side effects and disinformation running wild on social media. Others fret over the fact that the vaccine is so new -- created in record time in a public-private partnership spearheaded by former President Trump.
However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for Biden. If the president can get things under control now, his approval numbers could rebound in the coming months, experts said.
If not, he could face a crisis in leadership, and Democrats in Congress could distance themselves from him in the lead-up to next year's midterm elections.
Luckily for Biden, he may have time on his side, as the midterms are still a year away.
"It doesn't matter so much whether his numbers are down right now. What matters is whether his administration can execute a plan for success in the pandemic, as well as the economy, that people will feel in six months," Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.
BIDEN'S VACCINE MANDATE
Among Americans declining the vaccine, there has been an uptick in deaths as well as hospitals delaying some surgeries because hospital staff are being stretched thin.
Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna said the vaccine is safe and effective against severe illness and death by COVID-19, but the Biden administration has failed to convince millions of Americans, critics said.
In a bid to tamp down the number of cases, the White House is now imposing a vaccine mandate for companies that employ more than 100 workers.
The move is controversial, with Republicans expressing concern over government overreach and business groups complaining of being shut out of the decision-making process.
Biden has taken to the pulpit in recent days to explain his move -- which he said recently was not his first instinct -- and to continue to push Americans to get vaccinated.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that Biden "will continue to push vaccination as long as there are large numbers of people getting sick. It will be a while before the numbers drop to levels that people no longer are worried."
Biden's target number for the percentage of vaccinated remains unknown, however, and that has led some critics to accuse the president of moving the finish line when it suits him politically.
Senator Ted Cruz last month accused the president of moving the goalposts on the percentage of people who need to be vaccinated before a complete return to normal.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua that "I expect Biden will avoid putting a specific number on it."
Jeff Archer, an IT worker in the DC area, told Xinhua everyone should get the vaccine, but does not believe it should be mandated, while Francis Wilson, a manager at a small business, said she agrees with Biden's mandate.
SCHOOL MASK CONTROVERSY CONTINUES
Meanwhile, controversy on how to handle transmission of the virus in the nation's schools continues.
In states such as Florida and Texas, governors have been at loggerheads with some school boards, with the latter seeking to implement mask mandates and the former arguing the decision should be left up to parents.
Those against mask mandates for children also cite the possibility that mask wearing could impair small children's ability to learn, as young children rely on facial expressions to convey information.
Florida Department of Education recently voted to sanction eight school districts that have instituted mask mandates that do not give parents the choice to opt their kids out.
This marks the latest development in a fight between the state of Florida and a few school districts that went ahead and mandated masks on their own, in defiance of an order from Governor Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis maintains he wants to give parents a choice over whether their children should wear masks in class or not. The state of Florida has also threatened not to fund school districts that defied the governor's no-mask-mandate order.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children can spread COVID-19, but are less likely to develop severe illness or die from the virus.
The extent to which children suffer long-term consequences of COVID-19 remains unknown, it states on its website. Enditem