President Joe Biden only took a couple of questions on Tuesday afternoon from reporters after he gave a short statement about the administration’s progress on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And as much as the temptation is to stay outdoors on this beautiful day, I’ve got more work to do,” Biden concluded. “Thank you all very, very much. Bye-bye.”
Reporters asked Biden questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin, new pandemic guidelines, and about the devastating COVID-19 outbreak in India.
“You chose to wear a mask as you walked out here,” a reporter said. “What message were you sending by wearing a mask outside alone?”
“By watching me take it off and not put it back on until I get inside,” Biden responded.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Biden said a few moments later. “I’m going to — this is the last question I’ll take, and I’m really going to be in trouble.”
A few moments later the press conference was over.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon — this beautiful afternoon. Next week, I’ll be laying out the path ahead to continue our fight against COVID-19 to get us to July 4th. This is our target date to get life in America closer to normal and to begin to celebrate our independence from the virus together with our friends and loved ones as we — to celebrate Independence Day.
But before that, I wanted to speak briefly to all of you today about the recent change announced by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC.
Let me say first: While we still have a long way to go in this fight and a lot of work to do in May and June to get us to July 4th, we’ve have made stunning progress because of all of you, the American people. Cases and deaths are down — down dramatically from where they were when I took office on January 20th, and continuing to fall.
That is particularly true for a group of Americans that we were most worried about when it came to this virus: senior citizens. When I took office in January, we were losing literally tens of thousands of our seniors each week. Grandparents who were loved so dearly, moms and dads, pillars of every community — gone by the thousands every day. At that time, less than 1 percent of seniors were fully vaccinated when I took office.
Today, in less than 100 days, more than 67 percent — two thirds of our seniors — are now fully vaccinated and more than 80 percent of seniors have had at least one shot. That effort has resulted in a drop of 80 percent in deaths among American seniors, a 70 percent drop in hospitalizations.
So instead of losing thousands of seniors each day, we’re saving thousands of lives, and more and more as each day goes by.
And, by the way, based on reported data, the proportion — the proportion of seniors who have been vaccinated is essentially equal between white and seniors of color.
I said from the beginning that we were — we’re going to fight this virus with equity — equity for all. As a matter of a fact, if I’m not mistaken, there are more Latinos and African American seniors that have been vaccinated, as a percentage, than white seniors. These numbers are a sign of progress on that front as well.
Now, last week, I announced that we had crossed the threshold of 200 million shots. We’ve now — since Inauguration Day, we have given 215 million shots. And that — anyone 16 years of age or older is now eligible to get the vaccine — now, today, immediately.
And because of the extraordinary progress we’ve made in fighting this virus and the progress our scientists have made in learning about how it gets transmitted, earlier today, the CDC made an important announcement: Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated, and you’re outdoors, you need — and not in a big crowd — you no longer need to wear a mask.
I want to be absolutely clear: If you’re in a crowd, like a stadium or at a conference or a concert, you still need to wear a mask even if you’re outside. But beginning today, gathering with a group of friends in a park, going for a picnic — as long as you are vaccinated and outdoors — you can do it without a mask.
The CDC is able to make this announcement because our scientists are convinced by the data that the odds of getting or giving the virus to others is very, very low if you’re — both been fully vaccinated and out the open air.
The CDC also have clarified which outdoor activities are safer or less safe, depending on whether you’ve been vaccinated. The bottom line is clear: If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things, more safely, both outdoors as well as indoors.
For — so for those who haven’t gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go get vaccinated now — now.
Yes, the vaccines are about saving your life, but also the lives of the people around you. But they’re also about helping to get us get back to closer to normal in our living — more normal living — getting together with friends, going to the park for a picnic without needing to mask up. We’re back to that place now as long as you get vaccinated.
So, go get this shot. It’s never been easier. And once you’re fully vaccinated, you can go without a mask when you’re outside and away from big crowds.
I want to thank the team at the CDC for everything they’re doing to help us lead with science and bring our communities out of this crisis safely and responsibly.
And I also want to thank everyone who has gotten the vaccine for doing your patriotic duty and helping us get on the path to Independence Day, which I’ll be discussing more in detail next week.
In the meantime, I urge all Americans: Don’t let up now. Keep following the guidance. Go get your vaccination now. It’s free and it’s convenient.
Ninety percent of the American people live within five miles of a site where you can get a vaccination. You can do this, and we will do this.
Thank you all. And God bless you. And as much as the temptation is to stay outdoors on this beautiful day, I’ve got more work to do.
Thank you all very, very much. Bye-bye.
Q Mr. President, if the risk is so low outdoors, why doesn’t it apply to everybody?
Q Mr. President, would you have any preconditions for a meeting with Vlad- — wait, would you have any preconditions before meeting with Vladimir Putin?
THE PRESIDENT: I — one at a time.
Q If the risk is so low outdoors, why doesn’t this new guidance apply to everybody?
THE PRESIDENT: Because the science indicates that this is the most certain way to make sure it doesn’t spread: if both people have been vaccinated — the people you’re with — and you’re outside.
Q And you chose to wear a mask. Sir, you chose to wear a mask.
Q Do you have any preconditions before meeting with Vladimir —
Q You chose to wear a mask as you walked out here. What message were you sending by wearing a mask outside alone?
THE PRESIDENT: By watching me take it off and not put it back on until I get inside.
Q Do you have any preconditions before meeting with Vladimir Putin?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll discuss that all another day. Thank you.
Q Sir, India — India needs medicine. India needs AstraZeneca. Sir, will you make it faster to get — for them to get the vaccine — the vaccines we will get soon?
THE PRESIDENT: You said India?
Q India. They’re suffering at this moment.
Q What do you say to the folks in India?
Q Will you make it —
THE PRESIDENT: Look, I’m sorry. I’m going to — this is the last question I’ll take, and I’ve ha- — I’m really going to be in trouble.
With regard to India, I spoke at length with Modi, the Prime Minister. We are sending immediately a whole series of help that he needs, including providing for those — remdesivir and other drugs that are able to deal with this and prevent, in some cases, but recover — help recovery.
Secondly, we are sending the actual mechanical parts that are needed for the machinery they have to build a vaccine. And that’s being done as well.
We’re also discussing — I’ve discussed with him when we’ll be able to send actual vaccines to India, which would be my intention to do. The problem is, right now, we have to make sure we have other vaccines, like Novavax and others, coming on, probably. And I think we’ll be in a position to be able to share — to share vaccines, as well as know-how, with other countries who are in real need.
That’s the hope and expectation.
And I might add, when we were in a bind at the very beginning, India helped us.
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