Roosevelt Room

4:43 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m delighted you’re all here.  I’m meeting with a group of labor and business leaders who — and this is one of those meetings I’ve been looking forward to.

They’re not here to negotiate with one another.  The good news is they’ve been here negotiating — not negotiating — supporting what we’re trying to get done on the infrastructure bill.

And I know that we’re looking for this bipartisan effort to get this infrastructure bill passed.  As you all know, and they share my belief that it’s both in the interest of business and labor to get this done.

And — and it’s about — not about energy versus environment, it’s not about business versus labor; it’s all about, basically, a race to the future.

I’ve been traveling the world lately and — back out where I used to spend a lot of time, in the G7 and meeting with the summits with the Russians, as well as NATO.  And I tell you, the rest of the world is looking to see whether we can get something done.  I’m not joking about that. 

The single-biggest issue — I know you’ve travelled the world, all of you — and the fact is that they’re trying to figure out whether we’re so divided that we can’t get something done.  And — but I’m convinced that they’re convinced now that we have an opportunity to make some real fundamental changes that generate growth in the future.

You know, the days used to be that we were in a position where the United States invested more money in research and development three, four decades ago than any nation in the world.  Now we’re number eight.  And it used to be that China was — was number nine, and now they’re number two.

This is about a race for the 21st century.  And you know — and what we’re doing here is, in this race for the future, it’s about connecting Americans — all Americans, rural and urban — to high-speed Internet, repairing our roads and our bridges so that we can, in fact, no longer be ranked number 9 or 10 in terms of infrastructure in America.  Back to what we used to be — we used to lead the world.

You know, electrify our school buses and our transit systems.  And we’re going to build national charging networks for electric vehicles; eliminate the nation’s lead service pipes.  We got 400,000 home- —

I mean, there’s just a whole lot we can do that’s going to put a lot of people to work.  And it’s going to improve the life of a lot of people.

We’re going to update our power grid — which, as you saw what happened to Texas last year, there’s a lot we can do.  It’s going to generate — and, Lonnie, your (inaudible) is going be awful busy, and —

MR. STEPHENSON:  We’re ready.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’re going — we have to win the comp- — we really do.  This is not hyperbole.  We have to win the competition for the 21st century.  That’s really what’s at stake, and I think you all know that.  And that’s what the Bipartisan Infrastructure does, in my view.

I want to thank everyone here for supporting it.  We’re going to get into the details, among all of us, about what we think about what needs to be improved, what can be made better or worse.  You know, so, we want everybody to be engaged.

So, thank you all, folks, for being here.  We’re going to now get down to business.

Q    Mr. President, what conversations have you had with public health officials about possibly changing the mask mandate for vaccinated Americans?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll respond to the COVID question quickly. 

We follow the science.  What’s happening now is all the major scientific operations in this country and the 25-person group we put together are looking at all the possibilities of what’s happening now.

We have a pandemic among the nonvaccinated — those who are not vaccinated.

If you are vaccinated, you are safe.  If you are vaccinated, you have over a 98 percent chance of never catching the virus at all.  And if you catch it, you’re likely to — overwhelming proof, so far, is you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be sick, you’re going to probably have no signs that you had it, and you are not going to die.  It’s a simple proposition.

And what they’re doing is they’re going into — investigating every aspect of any change that could or might take place.

But the vaccines are good against all of the variants that are out there, including the Delta variant. 

Thank you so much for being here.

4:49 P.M. EDT

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