State Dining Room

4:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I just visited a vaccination clinic in Virginia, at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

The seminary and other houses of worship in the area are partnering with the community health centers to offer vaccination and vaccination sites.  They’re seeing these kinds of partnerships where — and not just there, but we’re seeing them all over the country. 

People are coming together across the different faiths to serve those most in need, with a special focus on vaccinating seniors from all races, backgrounds, and walks of life.  It’s an example of America at its finest.

And they’re all meeting what Pope Francis calls the “moral obligation”: Get vaccinated — something which can, he went on to say, can save your life and the lives of others.

And I was at the seminary clinic to mark an important milestone as well.

Yesterday, we crossed 150 million shots in 75 days — the first 75 days my administration, on our way to hitting our goal of 200 million shots by the 100th day in office.  That, of course, is the new goal I set after passing the original mark of 100 million shots in my first 100 days, doing it in just 58 days.

At the time, some said 100 million shots was “too ambitious,” and then they said, “It wasn’t ambitious enough.”  Well, we got to keep moving.  If we could raise it up higher, I’d do that as well.  But we know — we know what we have to do: We have to ramp up a whole-of-government approach that rallies the whole country and puts us on a war footing to truly beat this virus.

And that’s what we’ve been doing: getting enough vaccine supply, mobilizing more vaccinators, creating more places to get vaccinated.  And we’re now administering an average of 3 million shots per day — over 20 million shots a week.

On Saturday alone, we reported more than 4 million shots were administered.  We’re the first country to administer 150 million shots and the first country to fully vaccinate over 62 million people. 

But here’s the deal: I promised an update to the American people every 50 millionth shot, and I’m already back to update you a little over two weeks — two and a half weeks later.  I promised in the beginning that I’d always give you the straight scoop, straight from the shoulder — the good and the bad. 

Well, here’s the truth: The good news is we’re on track to beat our goal of 200 million shots in the first 100 days.  More than 75 percent of the people over the age of 65 have gotten shots, up from 8 percent when we took office.  That’s a dramatic turnaround and critical because seniors account for 80 percent of all COVID deaths.

To help support my goal of safely reopening a majority of K-through-8 schools by my 100th day in office, I directed states in early March to make educators and children [sic] — childcare workers eligible for vaccines, and to get [set] a goal of getting all who wanted the vaccination to be able to have one and to do it in the month of March.

I’m pleased to report, according to CDC estimates, over 80 percent of teachers, school chaffs [sic] — school staff and childcare workers received at least one shot by the end of March.  And that’s great progress protecting our educators, our essential workers. 

And because our vaccine program is in overdrive, we’re making it easier to get a vaccination shot.  Last week, I announced that by April 19th of this month, 90 percent of all Americans will be within five miles of a vaccination site. 

And further good news is that we’re getting more and more data on just how effective the vaccines are.  Dr. Fauci recently cited two studies from the New England Journal of Medicine that found fully vaccinated care workers — healthcare workers on the frontlines had an extremely low infections rate, less than two-tenths of one percent, compared to unvaccinated healthcare workers who had considerably higher infection rates.

So, we’re making incredible progress.  There is a lot of good news, but there is also some bad news.  New — new variants of the virus are spreading and they’re moving quickly. Cases are going back up.  Hospitalizations are no longer declining.  While deaths are still down — way down from January — they’re going up in some places.  So you might ask — everybody is asking: What does that mean?

I understand that people may find it confusing that the vaccination program is saving tens of thousands of lives but the pandemic remains dangerous.  Let me explain it in a single word: Time.  Time.  Even moving at the record speed we’re moving at, we’re not even halfway through vaccinating over 300 million Americans.  This is going to take time.  Remember: For a two-dose vaccine, it takes weeks from the time you get your first one until you are able to get your second shot, which makes you fully protected. 

If you get your first shot next week, in mid-April, you won’t be fully protected until — until May — late May.  If you get your first shot in mid-May, you aren’t fully protected until late June.

So, look — now, on the one hand, June isn’t that far away given how long this has been going on, but it isn’t here yet either.  So, the virus is spreading because we have too many people who, seeing the end in sight, think we’re at the finish line already. 

But let me be deadly earnest with you: We aren’t at the finish line.  We still have a lot of work to do.  We’re still in a life-and-death race against this virus.  Until we get more people vaccinated, we need everyone to wash their hands, socially distance, and mask up in a recommended mask from the CDC.

Think about it this way: Better times are ahead. And as I’ve said before, we can have a safe, happy Fourth of July with your family and friends, in small groups in your backyard.  The real question is: How much death, disease, and misery are we going to see between now and then?

In January — just the month of January — we lost 95,747 — excuse me, 95,774 Americans.  In March, that was 37,172 Americans.  All told — as you’re all about to know — I keep doing this, I know, but I carry this card, every day, with my schedule on it.  And on the back, I have a COVID update.  The total number of deaths in the United States to date is 554,064 dead.  That’s lives that have been lost.

What we do now is going to determine how many people we’ll — we’ll save or lose in the month of April and May and June before we get to July 4th.

So, please, until we’re further along in this accelerating, successful, but still growing vaccination effort, please wash your hands.  Practice social distancing.  Wear a mask, as recommended by the CDC.  Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. 

While I’m asking Americans — the American people to do their job, here’s what I’m doing.  When we first started our vaccination program, the real question is how quickly we could get shots in people’s arms.  Well, by the end of May, the vast majority of adult Americans will have gotten at least their first shot. 

That success — that success is going to save lives and get this country back to normal sooner.  But it’s not enough. 

On March the 11th, I announced that I was opening up all vaccination sites to all adults by May 1st.  Many governors — Democrats and Republicans — responded and decided to beat that day, which was good. 

Thanks to their hard work and the hard work of the American people, and the hard work of my team, I’m announcing today that we’re moving that date up from May 1st to April 19th, nationwide.  That means, by no later than April 19th, in every part of this country, every adult over the age of 18 — 18 or older — will be eligible to be vaccinated.  No more confusing rules.  No more confusing restrictions. 

My message today is a simple one.  Many states have already opened up to all adults.  But beginning April 19th, every adult in every state, every adult in this country is eligible to get in line to get a COVID vaccination. 

And today, in advance of that new national full-eligibility date, I want to make a direct appeal to our seniors and everyone who cares about them.  While we have made incredible progress vaccinating three quarters of our seniors and putting vaccination sites within five miles of 90 percent of the public, it still isn’t enough. 

It’s simple: Seniors, it’s time for you to get vaccinated now.  Get vaccinated now. 

To make it easier, my administration is sending aid to community groups to drive seniors to vaccination sites.  We’re incredibly grateful to all the volunteers, houses of worship, and the civic groups that are helping us in this effort. 

This is America.  We take care of one another.  We have to keep it up. 

As I ask seniors to sign up for their shots now, I also have a message for people under 65.  If you know someone over 65 who has not gotten this life-saving vaccine, call them now.  Work with them to get their shots this week or next.  Pick them up, drive them.  It can be your parents, your grandparents, your aunt, uncle, your neighbors.

And finally, even after we open up vaccinations to all adults and put a site within five miles of 90 percent of the public, we know there are many people who still struggle to get access to a shot.  We know that there are a number of seniors and people with disabilities and people in many communities of color who may be isolated and lack access to transportation.

That’s why we’re ramping up transportation to vaccination centers and deploying more mobile units and pop-up clinics in the places close to where people live.  That’s why we’re working with faith-based organizations and other community groups to host vaccination clinics, sign people up for appointments, get help — help them get those appointments.

That’s why we’re sending even more vaccines to community health centers, like the one I was in today, that all together serve nearly 30 million Americans, like the ones I visited today. 

Two thirds of the patients at community health centers live at or below the poverty level.  Sixty percent are racial and ethnic minorities.  To reach them, we’re investing nearly $10 billion to expand testing, treatment, and vaccinations for the hardest-hit yet most underserved communities.

Let me close with this: We’ve vaccinated more people than any other nation on Earth.  The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective.  That should give us real hope, but it can’t let it — we can’t let it make us complacent.

Despite the progress we’re making as a nation, I want every American to know in no uncertain terms that this fight isn’t over.  This progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve can be reversed.  Now is not the time to let down.  Now is not the time to celebrate.  It’s time to do what we do best as a country: do our duty, our jobs, taking care of one another.  And we can and will do this, but we can’t let up now. 

My hope is, before the summer is over, I’m talking to you all about how we have even access to more vaccines than we need to take care of every American, and we’re helping other poor countries — countries around the world that don’t have the money, the time, the expertise.  Because until this vaccine is available to the world and we’re beating back the vaccine — the virus in other countries, we’re not really completely safe. 

So we’ve made great progress.  I’m still looking forward to the prospect if we keep the pace we’re on and we listen to one another and take the precautions I talked about, that you’ll be able to have a Fourth of July — an Independence Day on July the 4th, as I defined about three weeks ago.  I want to have an Independence Day, an independence from the COVID so you’re able to get in the backyard with a small group of people, of friends and neighbors, and celebrate Independence Day because you’ve been vaccinated, because you’re safe, because you’re in the clear.

May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.  Thank you so much for listening.  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President — how are the talks going, Mr. President?  In Vienna, how are the Vienna talks going?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll report on that later.

Q    Mr. President, do you think the Masters golf tournament should be moved out of Georgia?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that’s up to the Masters.  Look, you know, it is reassuring to see that for-profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are. 

There’s another side to it, too.  The other side to it too is: When they, in fact, move out of Georgia, the people who need the help the most — people who are making hourly wages — sometimes get hurt the most.

I think it’s a very tough decision for a corporation to make or a group to make, but I respect it when they make that judgment, and I support whatever judgment they make.  But it’s — the best way to deal with this is for Georgia and other states to smarten up.  Stop it.  Stop it.  It’s about getting people to vote.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Despite your personal appeal now, there are many Americans who are very reluctant to take the vaccine, especially in red states.  Why the White House hasn’t used a more forceful campaign, like advertisement on television, for example, to convince Americans to take that vaccine so we can reach the herd immunity?

THE PRESIDENT:  We are.  We are doing that.  And, by the way, the number of people who are reluctant to take it continues to diminish.  It continues to diminish across the country as they see their neighbors, particularly in communities that have been very —

Now, there’s a different group of people.  There’s a group of people who’ve been reluctant because of past — how can I say it? — past wrongs that had been done to them, like experimentation, not sure that they’re being told the truth, et cetera.

But then there’s another group that seems, to me, to be — I probably shouldn’t characterize it, but Mitch McConnell keeps speaking to them, which I give him credit for, saying, “The idea…” — he said the polling data shows Republican men, particularly young men, don’t think they should have to take the vaccine; it’s their patriotic right not to do it, their freedom to choose.  And he’s saying, “No, no, take the vaccine.  Take the vaccine.”  And I’ll add a phrase he didn’t but I think he believes: It’s a patriotic responsibility you have.

Last question.

Q    Mr. President, have you spoken to the Federal Reserve Chairman, Jay Powell, yet?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have not.

Q    Can you say why?  Do you plan to speak to him soon, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  I — I am not — look, I think the Federal Reserve is an independent operation.  And starting off my presidency, I want to be real clear that I’m not going to do the kinds of things that had been done in the last administration — either talking to the Attorney General about who he’s going to prosecute or not prosecute and under what circumstances, or the Fed telling them what they should and shouldn’t do, even though that wouldn’t be the basis upon which I’d be talking to him. 

So I’ve been very fastidious about not talking to them, but I do talk to the Secretary of Treasury.

Thank you all very much.

Q    And one more on COVID, Mr. President.  You mentioned 554,064 American dead from COVID-19.  A lot of families want to know how this happened, how it got here.  Have you had a chance to speak to any of your international partners, any of — President Xi, who I know you go way back with?  Have you had the chance to ask him if these reports are true, that China may be misled the world at the beginning?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I — I have not had that conversation with President Xi.  Thank you.

4:29 P.M. EDT

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