3:12 P.M. EDT
 
Q    Mr. President, what’s your message to Americans on the new variant?

Q    Are you concerned about the variant, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  You’ve already gotten my release.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve decided that we’re going to be cautious — make sure there is no travel to and from South Africa and six other countries in that region and — except for American citizens who are able to come back.

But we don’t know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern; it seems to spread rapidly. 
 
And we’re — I spent about a half hour this morning with my COVID team, led by Dr. Fauci.  And so that was the decision we made.

Q    What about the markets dropping, sir?  The markets have dropped significantly today.  What’s your response to that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Expected.  They always do when there’s something — when COVID arises. 

Q    But does it worry you at all?

THE PRESIDENT:  Not at all.

Q    Why not?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because why would it?

Q    Sir, why not an immediate ban?  Why not an immediate ban?  It’s going into effect on Monday, but why not do it now, like other countries have done?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, because that was the recommendation coming from my medical team.

Q    What do you say to questions about whether bans create an incentive for countries not to come forward with new variants if you’re penalized for doing so?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’d say that’s ridiculous, because you can’t hide the variants.  It’s not like someone could hide the fact that there’s a new variant with people getting sick more quickly.

Q    Do Americans need to be more careful now going into the holiday season?  You’ve been telling people to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Look — I have.  Here’s the deal: Every American who has not been vaccinated should be responsible and be vaccinated, from age five years and up — number one.
 
Number two, everyone eligible for the booster shot should get the booster shot immediately upon being eligible.  That is the minimum that everyone should be doing. 
 
And I — you know, we always talk about whether this is about freedom, but I think it’s a patriotic responsibility to do that.

Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, have you asked the Fed to singularly focus on inflation, sir, especially with the new appointments?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve talked to the Fed about a whole range of things, from monetary policy to inflation.  And I have confidence that the appointees that I’ve made — and I’m going to have — (coughs) — excuse me — three more — are going to reflect that — that concern.

Q    Are you worried about the situation in the Ukraine and the talk of a — of a possible coup?

THE PRESIDENT:  I am concerned.  Look, we support Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  We support Ukraine’s ability to govern itself.  And we object to any- — anything remotely approaching what’s been talked (inaudible).

Q    Have you talked to Zelenskyy or Putin?  Are you going to?

THE PRESIDENT:  In all probability. 

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, are you thinking of any new mandates, since your others are caught in court?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Not — not at the moment. 

Thank you.

3:15 P.M. EDT

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