James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:37 P.M. EDT
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon.   All right, let’s get going.  I have some updates on now what — what was once “BIF,” now it’s “BID.”  And hopefully we’ll get it to “BIB”.  That’s my joke for the day.  (Laughter.)   All right.  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Thank you so much.  Get it?
 
All right, as you all saw yesterday, the President and a bipartisan group of senators announced a deal on historic infrastructure investment that will drive economic growth and create good-paying, middle-class jobs.  The President is deeply thankful to these senators who he’s worked closely with these past few months. 
 
This will mean breaking — break- — this will mean breakthrough investments in our roads and bridges, in public transit, in rail, connecting every American, including undeserved [sic] rural areas — underserved rural areas, to high-speed Internet, the most significant investment in clean energy transmission and electric vehicle infrastructure in our history, as well as historic investment in clean drinking water. 
 
Combined with the President’s Build Back Better agenda, the bipartisan deal will help us create 2 million jobs a year for the next decade. 
 
This deal is going to create good-paying union jobs building roads and bridges; working on rail; building unprec- — unprecedented infrastructure for electric vehicles; replacing poisonous lead water pipes that are hurting our children; building new, more resilient structures.
 
Yesterday, 67 senators — which includes 17 Republicans, 50 Democrats — voted to move forward with consideration of this pas- — package, which is not only welcome because of the life-changing benefits, as I just listed out, this plan would mean for the American people, but also because of the healthy signal about American democracy it sent to the world.  And the President’s colleagues in both parties deserve enormous credit for that. 
 
There’s an incredible — incredibly broad and diverse coalition behind this deal, as you all know, range — ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to AFL-CIO, and including the nation’s governors and mayors, building trades, and majorities of Republican and Democratic voters.
 
Last week, an analysis led by John McCain’s former economic advisor found that its benefits would overwhelmingly flow to middle-class and working families as it helps create millions of jobs.
 
A new poll out just this morning from Monmouth shows an overwhelming 70 percent of the public supports the infrastructure package.
 
And the President is also fighting for his Build Back Better Agenda, which would make transformational investments in human infrastructure and on climate, on education, the care economy, and on making healthcare affordable while extending the biggest middle-class tax cut in our history.

Also, today, GDP numbers — today’s GDP numbers are further proof of the progress we’ve — we’ve had jumpstarting our economy.  With today’s data, the U.S. economy has now made up the losses of the last 18 months and surpassed the pre-pandemic GDP peak.
 
In fact, in the first year of this — of the first half of this year, the economy grew at the latest [fastest] rate in nearly 40 years.  It took two years after the last recession to return to the previous level.  Today, it took half as long.
 
You can see how — how far we’ve come just by looking at where we were this time last year.  In the second quarter of 2020, we saw the largest decline in GDP on record — a decline of more than 31 percent.
 
That’s the — that’s the story of this President’s economic plan taking us from the worst time of our economy in history to one of the best.
 
That reversal is no — no accident.  It’s the result of President Biden’s plan to curb COVID and deliver economic relief to families, small businesses, and economic — and communities throughout the country.
 
At — at that strength isn’t just being reflected in today’s GDP number; it’s being seen across the economy.  Earlier this month, we learned that the economy created eight — 850,000 jobs in June, as you all know, with average of 600,000 jobs created each month since the President took office.
 
That’s a total of over 3 million jobs created under President Biden — more jobs than any other President’s first ha- — first four months in history.  And importantly, we’re seeing better jobs with higher ra- — wages across the country.
 
Recent independent forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office and the International Monetary Fund both doubled their projections for America’s economic growth this year to the fastest pace in almost 40 years.
 
The last time the economy was growing this fast, Ronald Reagan was — was telling us it was “Morning in America.”  And I think I was about 5 years old.  So, there’s that.  (Laughter.)
 
And this boom is backed by other signs across the economy: Consumer confidence is up, jobs are up, personal income is up, and unemployment is down in all 389 metro areas in the U.S. compared to last year.

And today, I wanted to provide another update, as Jen has been doing these past couple of days, on some of the innovative ways we are reaching Americans on the importance of getting vaccinated.
 
As we work to get more shots in arms, we’re doubling down on empowering trusted messengers, which have been key to this process, to talk to their communities about the vaccines, including doctors across the country.  We have been working with local doctors and local stations to get Americans their facts and answer questions. 
 
Since we started this program this summer, this effort has led to more than 400 original stories and syndicated airings — airings of local doctors’ interviews for a reach of more than 185 million broadcast and online impressions.
 
And, beginning in August, this effort will expand even further with dozens of local African American doctors from the National Medical Association joining in, helping us elevate the voices of Black physicians and reach hard-hit communities.

Finally, a brief preview of the President’s remarks later this afternoon: The President will deliver remarks on COVID-19 virus about where he sta- — we stand, the progress we’ve made, and the steps we need to take now to address rising cases in the nation.
 
He will send a strong message to all Americans — unvaccinated and vaccinated — about the need to stay vigilant in our fight against the virus.  And he’ll make clear that his administration will continue to provide every resource needed to help communities and individual — individuals across the country to curb the spread of the Delta variant and boost vaccinations.  His remarks will highlight several new measures that his administration will take to accelerate this effort.
 
And now — and I know you all are eager for specifics on the announcement, but we’ll have something to share shortly on that.
 
You want to take it away, Alex?
 
Q    Sure.  So my first question is going to be on specifics, actually, so whatever you can share would be helpful.  There’s been a lot of questions about how exactly it would work.  Will federal contractors be covered?  How will the federal government collect proof of vaccination?  And will those who refuse to follow the guidelines be subject to disciplinary action or termination?  Is there any clarity you can offer on any of those aspects?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well — so I’m — I don’t want to get ahead of the President, so I don’t have anything specific to share.  But I’ll say a little bit more. 
 
I know, you know, the official details on the President’s remarks and any forthcoming guidance that — that will be coming shortly on federal workers, as you’re asking about, Alex.
 
But I — you know, one of the things that I want to kind of touch base on again, which is what I was talking about — was — which was one of the things that was under consideration yesterday — I discussed this yesterday on the plane, on Air Force One, on our way to Pennsylvania — which is attestation of vaccination. 
 
For those who may not know, it means confirming a vacci- — a vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols like mandatory mask wearing, even in communities not with high or substantial spread, and regular testing for federal employees is one op- — and in — is one option under strong consideration. 
 
This is a — this is a really helpful way to ensure a safe workplace for employees.  It also is not dissimilar to some of the protocols that you all have put in place in some of the new — news room that you work in — including Fox, Peter, who, to my understanding, is — is asking for self-attestation to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.  So, this is not an unusual matter. 
 
So we understand that there’s significant weight to what the federal government handles — how the federal government handles reentry.  And a key goal of ours is to ensure we have a sustainable model to keep employers across the country — to make sure that they work in a safe workplace.
 
Q    And then on the SIV arrivals that are coming, can you tell us anything more about that?  Are they coming tonight or tomorrow?  Are they coming out of commercial charter, military flight?  And do you know where they will be distributed when they arrive in the U.S.?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  So, the President, as you know, said clearly that he is — he is committed to making sure that the people who helped — who helped us these past 20 years are also taken care of and being helped as well. 
 
Look, you know, I can tell you that the President set a clear goal.  We will begin relocating eligible and interested Afghan SIV applicants and their families before the end of this month.  We’re getting close to that.  This is a whole-of-government, 24/7, worldwide effort, as you all can imagine, and we intend to meet the President’s goals.
 
Out of just extreme caution, as you can imagine, Alex and others, and consideration for their safety and security and privacy of the Afghan special immigrants and fa- — and their families, we’re not going to discuss or confirm any details of flights at this time.
 
Q    And then one more on the GDP report that you mentioned. While it showed strong economic growth, it also suggested that employers are having trouble rebuilding their inventory and may have trouble, sort of, selling goods in the coming months. 
 
And while you guys have said that inflation is just an immediate concern, doesn’t that suggest that there could be lingering inflation effects in the long run if companies are not able to build some of those — those inventories because of supply chain bottlenecks?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, just to say a little bit more, just to reiterate — like today’s GDP numbers are further proof of the progress we’ve made in jumpstarting our economy, as I mentioned. 
 
With today’s data, the U.S. economy has now made up the losses of the last 18 months and surpassed the predemic [sic] peak — pre-pandemic peak, as I mentioned.
 
In fact, the last half — the last first half of the year, the economy grew at the fastest rate in nearly — early — nearly 40 years, and it took two years after the last recession to return to the previous level; today, it took half as long. 
 
You know, just to give you a little bit more: Just one year ago, CBO predicted real GDP would be 3 percent below its pre-pandemic peak in the second quarter of 2021.  Today, we learned that thanks to the shots in arms and checks in pockets, it’s now above the peak. 
 
You can see how far we’ve come just by looking at where we were this time last year.  In the second quarter of 2020, we saw the largest decline in GDP on record — a decline of more than 31 percent.
 
That’s — that’s basically the story of the President’s economic plan.  This is what he has talked about for some — for some time, especially when you look at his economic policy, making sure that no one is left behind.  This is part of — as we can imagine, as we’ve talked about — the Build Back Better Plan.
 
As it relates to the inflation and this GDP report, you know, we knew the restarting the economy from a standstill in the middle of a pandemic would represent some challenges along the way, but experts inside and outside the administration believe that the data show that most of the price increases we are seeing are expected to be temporary. 
 
And so, this is why we continue to push for sustainable, smart policies and investment, like the Build Back Better Plan, which the President is going to continue to work hard towards. 
 
As I mentioned, this is his economic policy that he’s talked about for the past year that started with the campaign, and it’s really to make sure that we do not leave anyone behind. 
 
Q    Now that you’ve got the infrastructure deal, does the President now turn his attention to the reconciliation bill?  And does he hope to bring some Republicans along?  Or do you believe you’ll just have to rely strictly on Democratic votes? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, so as you can imagine, the President — this is just the beginning of the process.  The President is committed to his Build Back Better plan, as I was just mentioning, which includes the reconciliation plan.
 
You know, as you can imagine, the President is going to continue to talk to congressional members on both sides of the aisles, as he’s been doing this past six months, to make sure that he gets support for something that is incredibly important to the American public. 
 
Q    Okay.  And secondly, Iran has said they won’t return to the nuclear talks until their new president is in power, which takes place on August 5th.  Do you think the talks will resume then?  How long are you willing to wait? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say this — the timing for the seventh round has not yet been announced, as you all know.  And we’re not going to speculate to when that will be. 
 
Look, we’ve demonstrated time and again that we’re prepared to move forward with a mutual return to the compliance with the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal.  When Iran is done with its presidential transition process, we are prepared to plan our return to Vienna to continue with our talks.
 
We remain interested in seeking mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, though, as the Secretary has made clear — Secretary Blinken — this offer will not be on the table indefinitely.  So, this is something that we are still moving forward with and determined to make happen. 
 
Q    Thank you.
 
Q    Karine, can you tell me if you have a ballpark estimate of the percentage of the federal workforce that you believe is still unvaccinated? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have that number to share with you at this time.  So, I’m happy to check with our team, but I don’t have a number to share on that.
 
Q    And do you believe that the President’s announcement today — is one of the goals of this to spark more private businesses to follow suit, as we’ve already seen in the last coming days? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know, I don’t want to get ahead of the President’s announcement.  But like I said when talking about today, you know, the federal government — we see ourselves as a model for other — for other companies and other organizations.  And that’s something that we don’t take lightly. 
 
But, as you can imagine, the President’s goal — you know, he’s going to talk about this — and the President’s goal these last six months is to really work to curb this pandemic, this virus, to fight against it, but it’s going to take all of us.  It’s going to take all of us to do that. 
 
And our push, our message continues to be: We have to make sure that people get vaccinated.  And we’re going to continue to do that, as we’ve done these last six months. 
 
Q    Thanks so much, Karine.  We have heard from some associations ahead of the President’s announcement today — the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association says
Americans have a right to privacy and choice.  They’re accusing your administration of pushing people to undertake a medical procedure.  Are you expecting resistance to this announcement?  And what is your response to that? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll say — I’ll say this: Look, our priority is the American people.  We have to make sure people are safe and we’re continuing to save lives.  That is the most important thing.  That’s how this President sees this.
 
We listen to the science, and we provide Americans the information they need to protect themselves and help end this pandemic.  That is key here.  That is critical and important.  And that is why we have strongly encouraged Americans to get fully vaccinated, taken unprecedented action to make it easier and convenient. 
 
It’s very easy to get vaccinated.  Just go to Vaccines.gov and make an appointment and get vaccinated.  It’s so important, not just to protect yourself, but to protect your family. 
 
And so that is the goal here.  This is what we want to do.  We want to continue to make it easy and convenient for Americans to get a shot.  And we’ve gotten more than 300 million shots in arms.  Sixty percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.  That includes 80 percent of our most vulnerable — 65 and older. 
 
And so this is what the President is working towards.  That’s what we need to do and continue to do that. 
 
So, you know, I — again, I can’t get ahead of the forthcoming announcement, but here’s what I’ll say: First, what I laid out as a strong consideration is a choice — it is a choice that employees will be able to make because largely unvaccinated people continue to spread the virus, and until we have more people who are vaccinated and are curbing the spread, there needs to be proper protocols to keep Americans safe. 
 
And as a large employer — the largest in this country — who cares about the individuals who keep the government running, we have an obligation to be good stewards of the workforce and ensure their health and their safety. 
 
We’re taking action to protect the federal workforce so that they can continue to execute on the hard and important work of government. 
 
And just lastly, the forthcoming protocols, much of what is discussed yesterday is not dissimilar to so many other workplaces as well.
 
Go ahead, Kelly.
 
Q    Just to follow up really quickly: Will there be any changes to how frequently the President and the people around him are tested?  We were told when the breakthrough cases were happening here at the White House that the President is tested every two weeks, some people around him are tested every two days.  Any changes to that?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything new to provide on that.  We’ll probably have some more information forthcoming.  But as you can imagine, we’re going to continue to follow the CDC guidelines.
 
Q    For people’s expectations, if they’re federal workers and they choose not to be vaccinated, would they be responsible for the testing protocols themselves?  Would that be provided by the federal government? 
 
And then when we look at things like masks returning and so forth, does the President feel he needs to set any kind of new timetable for people’s expectations about how long this new posture, given the Delta variant, might last?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have anything further on your first question, Kelly.  So, I’ll let the President speak to that very, very soon — in about a little bit more than an hour, he’ll lay out his plans and what he’s — wants to talk to the American people about.
 
To your — to your other question — can you repeat that again?
 
Q    Setting expectations.  Since people are wearing masks now in D.C., we’ve got indoor mask requirements that’s happening in a lot of places around the country.  We know just a few weeks ago the President had a very different approach.  The science has changed, we’re told.  Is he going to try to set expectations for the public?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I think the President, you know, I don’t — there’s not a goal or ex- — you know, anything like that that we’re putting forth at this moment.  What we want to make sure is that we get our message out there and make sure people are getting vaccinated.  That is what the science tells us, that’s how we’re going to curb this pandemic is making sure that people get vaccinated. 
 
That’s what the President tries to do every time — almost every time he is at the podium or speaking to the American people, he says that.  He did that yesterday when I was with him in Pennsylvania.  He started at the top of his remarks talking about how this is a pandemic for the unvaccinated and it continues to be.  So that’s what he’s going to be working towards.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  So, President Biden says that we are not returning to lockdowns, shutdowns, and school closures, but he also once said that we didn’t have to wear masks anymore once we were vaccinated.  So, why should Americans trust him now?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, because we listen to the scientists; we listen to the expert.  This is a public health situation.  This is not about politics at all.  This is about saving lives.  And this is what the President is all about. 
 
He wants to make sure that we are saving lives.  If you look at, Peter, the last six months, that’s what he’s done every day.  And we — and you see that in the numbers. 
 
Now we’re at a point where we have to double down and make it very, very clear to people that we can’t — we can’t let the pandemic win.  We have to continue to fight.
 
Q    So if you’re listening to the science, if scientists come to you at some point down the line and say, “It is our opinion that there should be shutdowns and there should be school closures,” you would do that?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we listen to — like I said, we listen to the CDC and the expert and their guidance.  Our — you know, our — the CDC is a body that is very well respected.  And we fol- — again, we follow their guidance.
 
Q    And after this new guidance came out, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, came out to say, “We’re going to try to open up schools.”  Is that good enough for the President — just trying? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the President and the Secretary of Education has been very clear: By this fall, they want to see all schools open.  They’ve been very clear about that the last six months.  That’s why, in the historic American Rescue Plan that that he signed into law in April, there are resources in that plan to make sure that schools are able to open up safely, that schools have the resources to get — to have the PPE, to get that ventilation.  And so, the President had that in mind when he signed — when he put together that plan and signed it.
 
Q    But now that — after the plan was out there, now, after this new guidance, the teachers are saying they’re just going to “try.”  Is that okay?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we’re going to continue to work closely, as we have, with local governments, with the teachers, as we’ve done and have — and continue to have those conversation. 
 
I want to add, though, that nearly 90 percent of teachers are currently vaccinated.  That’s a good sign.  Now we just have to make sure we also protect our kids — right? — in school; we protect their — we protect the other administrators at school, people who have — who are immunocompromised.  And that’s why the CDC put out that guidance, making sure that people are wearing masks in schools.
 
Q    And last one — just because you talked about this administration having a priority of protecting the American people: Can you help us understand why is it that the federal government is asking vaccinated Americans to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, but at the same time, federal agents are also releasing COVID-19-positive border crossers into small towns in Texas?  How is that stopping the spread?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let’s step back for a second because I’ve — you know, this is —
 
(Weather alert sounds.)
 
Oh, okay.  Very interesting.  I’m sure everything is fine.  (Laughter.)  Um —
 
Q    Something I said?  (Laughter.)
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It could be me.  It may — but, you know, you did laugh at my joke, so maybe that’s a reaction to laughing at my joke.
 
Okay.  So let’s — I just want to be very clear here — I do want to answer your question, Peter.
 
First, just to step back and do this 30,000-foot view: There’s been no change in Title 42.  Families and single adults are expelled, if possible, when apprehended at the southern border.  The majority of apprehensions that we saw at the border in June were expelled.  Those who can’t be expelled or are — or are awaiting processing are often placed in alternative — alternatives to detention programs while their cases are being reviewed.
 
CBP provides a migrant with PPE from the moment — from the moment they are taken into custody, and migrants are required to keep masks on at all times, including when they are transferred or in the process of being released.  If anyone exhibits signs of illness in CBP custody, they are referred to local health systems for appropriate testing, diagnosis, isolation, and treatment.  CBP takes its responsibility to prevent the spread of communicable diseases very, very seriously.
 
We value our partners in local communities whose work is critical to moving individuals safely out of custody and through the appropriate immigration pathway, and assist in mitigating COVID-19 and isolating, quarantining when needed. 
 
So, that’s — that’s what I have for you, Peter.
 
Q    Okay.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  I know you don’t have a number, but so we understand the changes that the President is going to announce, what is the current policy for federal workers reporting their vaccination status, you know, getting tested?  What does that look like?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m going to not get ahead of the President here, again.
 
Q    No, I mean, right now.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share with you about what the current policy is at this moment.  I’m happy to go back and check with the team and see what we can get from that from — for you on that, but I also don’t want to get ahead of the President.  He’ll talk about this himself, and I just don’t want to get ahead of him.
 
Q    Okay.  So nothing to share on whether workers have to report anything?  Or —
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I don’t have anything to share.
 
Q    Okay.  And then, yesterday, some federal whistleblowers came forward to raise concerns about the conditions inside the Fort Bliss HHS facility housing migrant children.  They reported inadequate mental health services, filthy conditions, mismanagement.  Has the President been briefed on this?  Or are there any steps being taken to investigate?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I have not spoken to the President about this.  I have not myself have seen this report to be able to talk to him about this.  Let me, you know, check in with our team.
 
As you could imagine, the safety of migrants, the safety of young — of young people is incredibly important to us since they are in our care, as you can imagine.  And so this is something that I’ll check with our — with our team on.
 
Q    Thank you.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Jenny.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  On the eviction moratorium, which expires at the end of this week — and we all saw Jen’s statement on this — my colleagues just reported that congressional Democrats are seeking to extend that through December.  Does the White House support Congress extending it to that deadline, or do you have a different deadline in mind?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me step back for a second because this is an incredibly important issue, as you could imagine, to the American people.  So, given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, the President — President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability.  Unfortunately, as some of you might know, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.
 
In June, when CDC extended the eviction moratorium until July 31st, the Supreme Court’s ruling stated that clear and specific congressional authorization via new legislation would be necessary to the CDC to extend moratorium past July 31st. 
 
And so, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, you know, the President is going to work with Congress to make that happen, and that is something that they’re working on while — we’ll probably, hopefully, be working closely with them on that.
 
Q    One follow-up on that.  Some lawmakers, including Maxine Waters, are also pushing the CDC to just extend the moratorium again and then challenge the courts to overturn it.  So, if the congressional route doesn’t work in the timeframe that you have, why not go that route and see what the Supreme Court does?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me just share a little bit about what we have been doing.  So, we will continue an all-of-government effort to keep Americans safe and housed through the swift dispersal of Emergency Rental Assistance to states and cities, which has been pretty — which has been incredibly important to the American people.  And so, we’re going to make sure we get the word out and so that people know that the availability of rental assistance is out there and to support grantees in ramping up their efforts.
 
Yesterday, we held a Day of Action to promote the availability of rental assistance, which reached tens of millions of Americans.  Last week, the Treasury released new data on Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which showed that more than $1.5 billion in assistance was delivered to eligible households in the month of June — more than what was provided in the previous five months combined.  So, in June alone, this assistance served nearly 300,000 households, preventing them from facing eviction proceedings. 
 
And these funds that I’m talking about current — right now can continue to be dispersed to renters and landlords in need until 2025.  So, these Emergency Rental Assistance funds do not expire when the moratorium lifts. 
 
We’re engaged on an all-of-government effort to help states and localities put additional protections in place, including encouraging diversions proceedings so renters have the opportunity to stay in their homes. 
 
And so that’s what we’re doing on the government side, and we will continue to work with Congress.
 
Q    And then, lastly, on the GDP numbers, given obviously the surge in the Delta variant and the lower-than-expected number today, does the White House still believe that the emergency unemployment benefits should expire in September?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, it’s — it’s set to expire in September, as you just mentioned.  That is something that we’re going to keep — you know, keep look — keep an eye out.
 
Look, our country and our economy are in a much stronger place than we were in January.  That’s just a fact.  I talked about the — the 3 million — the more than 3 million Americans who are back at work.  And — you know, and unemployment claims have more than halved.
 
So we know the vaccines are working, including — including against the variants, at protecting against severe cases, deaths, and hospitalization.  And so, when it comes to the economy, there are no significant signs at this point of the Delta variant’s impact, and would expect that much of the economy impact would be felt in the communities with lower vaccination rates, as we’ve been talking about.  That’s why we’re doubling down on our efforts to ensure we’re reaching Americans with vaccine where they are.  So that’s going to be our focus in the meantime.
 
Q    Thanks, Karine.  I know you don’t want to get ahead of the President’s remarks, but I wanted to ask about the stra- — communication strategy.
 
You’ve been calling this the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”  The “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”  But that’s not really the case.  Vaccinated people are getting it.  They’re spreading the virus.  Even if they’re not hospitalized, you know, why does the White House feel that calling it the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is effective?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me — let’s just bring that back just a second.  We are seeing breakthrough cases with people who are vaccinated, but not at — at a low — at a low rate.  So just want to not scare people and make it sound like every vaccinated person is — is getting the Delta — the variant, which is not the case.  It is small, lower cases and — with breakthroughs, in particular, of people who are vaccinated.
 
But what has changed, as you know, is: Because the people who — the vaccinated folks who are having those breakthroughs, they can spread it now.  And so that is something — that is something that we should be concerned about, which is why the CDC guidance has changed, which is why we’re asking people to — they are asking people to wear a mask outside, and — I’m sorry, not outside — indoors, inside.  And so we’re asking people to mask up. 
 
So, the thing is, if people were to get vaccinated, then we would be in a better place to beat back the virus, including the Delta variant.  And so we have to continue to make sure — we have to continue to make sure the unvaccinated are getting vaccinated.  You know, that’s — I mean, when we were talking about this two months ago, the Delta variant was at 1 percent — at 1 percent. 
 
     And so — and we were seeing — you know, we were vaccinating people, we were seeing the numbers go up in vaccinations.
 
And now we’re at a point where, you know, people are just not doing that.  And we know — we know for a fact it’s easy to get that vaccine.  It’s free.  It’s accessible.
 
So, we — that’s why we’re saying it is the pandemic of the — of the unvaccinated, because that is why we’re seeing this variant really taking — taking over in hospitals right now.  Hospitalization — more than 97 percent are people who are not vaccinated. 
 
Q    Can I also ask you about — the President is reportedly meeting with some Democrats about protections for DREAMers.  Can you talk about that meeting?
 
And can you also share what type of concrete action is the President going to be doing moving forward on this?  When are we going to see the President use some of the kind of political muscle that he has on other priorities — say, getting out on the road, for example?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.  Well, he’s having this meeting today with congressional members.  I think that’s one way that he’s, you know, moving forward and being very active on this.  He talked about it.  He was asked about it when — during his town hall, last week in Ohio.  He was incredibly passionate, as you probably remember, in talking about DACA.
 
So, you know, in light of the ruling on DACA recently, the President wanted to hear from legislators on this and discuss the path forward on DACA.  To your point, he is being active in this process. 
 
And as you all know, the same day, President Biden said that the Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA.  And so that’s incredibly important.
 
And as the Court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future. 
 
The President also repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dreams Act and Promise Act.  So, today, he’s meeting with Congress and going to have a conversation on a path forward.  So he is, indeed, very engaged.
 
Q    Why not put it on the guidance?  The meeting was not on the guidance.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, because it’s not a public meeting.  It’s a meeting to have a real discussion with congressional members on how to move forward.
 
Q    Will the President, as Commander-in-Chief, require members of the military to get vaccinated? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything to share — more to share on that particular — particular piece.  As you can imagine, this is — this is — this — these are decisions that, you know, departments and agencies have to make.  And they’re — you know, they’re not easy decisions to make. 
 
The VA was able to do that.  They had to go through their process to make that happen, and it was specific for folks who are dealing in the public health sector.
 
Q    And a quick follow-up.  So would President Biden be comfortable with unvaccinated members of the military going to places around the world where vaccines are not widely and readily available to those populations?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m not — I’m not going to get ahead of — again, the President is going to be speaking in not — in less than an hour, so I don’t want to get ahead of him.  Clearly, his goal is to make sure that people are safe.  He wants to make sure his military members are safe as well.  And so that is what he’s going to lay out today in his speech.
 
Q    A question about the unvaccinated.  Based on the administration’s outreach to communities, does the White House know more about why certain Americans are still hesitant or resistant to getting the vaccine? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, as you know, it’s an individual choice.  There are reasons for many — for different Americans to — or people who are living — living here to not get the vaccine.  But our job is to make sure that we continue to have trusted voices, to make sure that we listen to the science, to make sure that we have that public health education out there, to let people know how important it is to get vaccinated. 
 
I don’t know, you know, the different reasons of why people are not getting vaccinated.  There are an array of reasons — misinformation is one of them; disinformation is one of them, which we had — the Surgeon General was here, not too long ago, talking about that and what — the data that he had to share and how dangerous that was — or that is — to many Americans.
 
But our job right now, and as we have continued — as we’re going to continue to do, as we have done, is to make sure we get that information out there and people understand and listen to the science and the health experts and get vaccinated.
 
Q    And with some major companies announcing new vaccine policy, what is the White House’s position or guidance to companies thinking of implementing similar mandates or requirements? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know — are you talking about verification — vaccine verification?  Or —
 
Q    Yeah.  Or, for instance, we learned today Danny Meyer is mandating employees and indoor diners to be vaccinated (inaudible).
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, we’re not — we’re — as you know, we’re not going to mandate — you know, we’re not going to do the mandating across the board for the American people.  What we’re going to continue to do is listen to the guidance — the CDC guidance — listen to the experts, and follow what they tell us to do. 
 
And — but we’re not going to be mandating anything from here. 
 
Q    Does the White House, though, encourage companies to implement their own stricter policy?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, they — yeah, they have the flexibility to do that.  They are private companies, private organizations.  They have the flexibility to do that — to put in mandates that works for them; that’s important to keeping their — you know, their staff safe.  And that is important. 
 
Q    I’m told we have to wrap.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:   Oh, okay.  I’ll ta- — I’ll take one more.
 
Q    Karine, can I ask a question on travel restrictions?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you very much.  What is the difference to the administration between a vaccinated American traveling to Europe or the UK, or any other country that the U.S. has travel restrictions on, and potentially bringing back the Delta variant or some other strain of COVID, and someone who’s vaccinated from one of those countries coming here and potentially bringing one of those variants with them? 
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me — well, you know, the travel restrictions comes off — comes up often.  I’ll say this for now: The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen the international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.  The reopening process is guided by the science and public health.
 
Given where we are today with the Delta variant, as you just — you were just laying out, Francesca, the United States will remain exist- — existing travel restriction at this point for a few reasons.  The more transmittable Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.  Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appear likely to continue — to increase in the weeks ahead.  And the CDC just advised Americans against travel to the UK this past Monday, given their surge in cases. 
 
Any travel from any other countries, I would refer you to them.
 
Q    And if I could just —
 
Q    But what is the basis for the travel restrictions?
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We can talk about this another time.
 
Q    Thank you, Karine.  Thank you.
 
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks — thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow.
 
3:17 P.M. EDT

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