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tv   White House COVID-19 Response Team Holds Briefing  CSPAN  March 5, 2021 10:01pm-10:35pm EST

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for several hours on the floor, democratic leaders have reached an agreement over unemployment benefits with west virginia's joe manchin. it would extend the existing on employment benefits at $300 a week until september. votes on amendments are expected to continue tonight. watch live coverage of the senate on c-span 2. >> with the biden administration now leading the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, follow the latest at c-span.org/coronavirus. search c-span coverage of news conferences as well as remarks from members of congress. use the interactive gallery of maps to follow the cases in the u.s. and worldwide. c-span.org/coronavirus. >> earlier today, the white house covid-19 response team
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held a briefing on the biden administration's efforts. we hear about the partnership between pharmaceutical companies, johnson & johnson, and merck as well as new fema sites being established to administer vaccines in underserved communities. this is half an hour. >> thank you for joining us. it was an eventful week at the white house and around the country. i want to take a moment to step back and remind people where we have come from and where we are going. over the past six weeks, we have seen the nation rally together and an unprecedented way. together, we have recovered from a storm, cap vaccination sites opened late, packed and shipped vaccines throughout the night, seen companies across america make major commitments to masking and vaccinations and to underserved communities, and just this week, we went from a j&j authorization to shots and arms -- in arms in three days. all that was topped by an announcement by two rival drug
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companies, johnson & johnson and merck of an unprecedented collaboration to increase our vaccination capacity along with the u.s. government. we have increased vaccine supplied to states tribes, and territories by more than 77%, launched programs to get vaccines into trusted locations like pharmacies and community vaccination centers, community health centers, and there are thousands of americans from our military service men and women to retired doctors and nurses, so members of the national guard, all vaccinating americans across the country. the nation is coming together on this pandemic response, and we are throwing everything we have at this virus. as much sacrifice as this is required from everyone, we are making progress.
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six weeks ago, only 8% of seniors, those most vulnerable to covid had received a vaccination. today, nearly 55% of people age 65 or older have received one shot. we administered more than 82 million shots, more than any other country in the world, and we have expanded more than 450 community vaccination sites. today, we are announcing the addition of two new fema supported high-volume sites. the atlanta falcons stadium in georgia, and a center in cleveland, ohio will turn into community center vaccination sites with the capacity to deliver 6000 shots per day each. both of these sites sit in neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic and are well-known in the community. this brings the total to 18 fema supported sites across seven
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states with the ability to administer more than 60,000 shots per day. i want to be clear. we owe the public straight talk whether the news is promising or challenging. progress demonstrates we can defeat covid-19, but it does not equal success. it may seem tempting in the face of all of this progress to try to rush back to normalcy as if the virus is in the rearview. it is not. years of watching football on tv has shown me, it is better to spike the football once you are safely in the end zone, not after you have made a couple of completions. the cdc and public health officials locally and at the state level and nationally are all clear. wear a mask. not forever, but for now. wear a mask now so you can get
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to a place where you don't have to. this is not just the voice of cautious public health experts. it is what the businesses who want to remain open and many public officials of both parties who have lived through the last year are saying. as you will hear from dr. walensky, it is also what the data from last year is telling us. i will turn it over to dr. walensky. dr. walensky: thank you. it is a pleasure to be back with you. there have been many questions about when cdc will release guidance for vaccinated persons and activities they can resume. these are complex issues. the science is rapidly evolving. cdc is working to ensure that the communication we release on this guidance are clear and that the american public can act on them. our goal and what is most important is that people who
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have been vaccinated and those not yet vaccinated are able to understand the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. we are making sure and taking the time to get this right. we will be releasing guidance soon. let's shift towards overview of the pandemic. the cdc recent data shows that cases continue to fluctuate around 60,000 to 70,000 cases per day. with the most recent seven day average of 62,000 cases per day. we also continue to see deaths hovering around 2000 per day with the latest seven day average of 1900 deaths per day. the current numbers remain concerning. cases and deaths are still too high and have plateaued from -- for more than a week at levels that we saw during the late summer surge following six weeks of steady decline.
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this is why i am asking you to double down on prevention measures. i know the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to everyday activity is appealing, but we are not there yet. we have seen this movie before. when prevention measures in mass -- and mask mandates are rolled back, cases go up. an article published today highlights the critical importance of prevention strategies and the risk when prevention measures are eased. this study looks at the relationship between covid-19 cases and deaths in state issued mask mandates and restaurant presuming from march to december 2020. the resurgence found that increases in both daily death rates and covid cases and deaths slowed significantly within 20 days of putting mask mandates in
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place. in contrast, increases of daily death rates of covid-19 cases and deaths grew more quickly within 40 to 80 days following restaurants being allowed to resume on premise dining. this report is a critical reminder that with the current levels of covid-19 in communities and the continued spread of more transmissible virus variants, which has now been detected in 48 states, strictly following prevention measures remains essential for putting an end to the pandemic. it also serves as a warning of premature lifting of these measures. there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the road ahead may not be smooth. by continuing to wear a ma sk, and following cdc's public
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health recommendations, while we get more people vaccinated, we can bring the pandemic to an end. thank you, i look forward to your questions. i will turn things over to dr. fauci. dr. fauci: thank you very much. i would like to take up a bit on what dr. walensky just said. if i could have the first slide, i am going to spend the next couple of minutes talking about the daily trends in the numbers of cases that have been reported and how this relates to both the evolution of variants, and how you handle variants. if you look at the far left part of the slide on the area between january and june, many of us will recall very vividly, in the end of the winter and beginning of the spring, we had a surge dominated by the new york metropolitan area. after the surge, what we came down to was a baseline of about 20,000 cases per day. that is a very high baseline
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, relatively speaking. when we try to open up the country on the second peak in the middle of the slide, the same thing. after we peak, we started to come down, but we plateaued again. at a very high baseline, 40,000. we just now experienced the worst surge on the right-hand part of the slide. it is starting to come down in a very nice deflection curve. the issue is if you look at the very far right of the slide as dr. walensky has said, we are starting to plateau. i have blown that up in a little section which is now sitting in the middle of the slide. that plateau is about 60,000 to 70,000 cases per day. when you have that much viral activity in a plateau, it almost invariably means that you are at
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risk for another spike. in fact, as the washington post reported yesterday, many countries in europe have seen just that. they had a decrease in cases over a six-week period, they plateaued, and now over the last week, they saw an increase in cases by 9%. something we desperately want to avoid. how does that relate to variants? let me just go through this. i refer to it as virology 101. what it really is is some fundamental tenants of virology. namely, rna viruses like sars cov 2 tend to mutate. they have poor proofreading mechanisms. a virus cannot mutate if it does not replicate and it replicates in infected individuals. a high baseline level of
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community spread of virus favors mutations in the evolution of variants. variants get evolved because of selection pressures, namely, fundamental pressure to enhance its own replication and propagate itself, as well as pressure to evade neutralizing antibodies. this has important implications for vaccines as well as the potential role of immunosuppressed people who get infected, don't clear the virus rapidly, and allow it to mutate in the individual. a suboptimal immune response favors the generation of variants. in fact, i had showed you in a previous press briefing what the issue was when you have a first
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dose of let's say, pfizer vaccine, similar to the moderna, you get a response that is protective, in this case, it would be about 52%. however, the second dose brings that level of antibodies quite high which gives it redundancy to prevent the evolution as well as to protect against viral variants. said in a plain and simple way, sub optimal immune responses to virus promotes the generation of viruses and the lack of potency or redundancy of an immune response to protect and suppress variants is another issue of concern. how do you address these threats
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which we clearly are facing of a number of viral variants? on the one hand, vaccination. maximize the immune response against the virus. you can do that by the proper adherence to the regiments shown on the clinical trial or even plan like some companies are doing, in the distance of giving a booster. perhaps plan as we are doing with modernity, to boost with a variant specific vaccine. importantly, there is another tool, and that is what was emphasized by dr. walensky, namely, adherence to the public health measures in an arena of a high baseline of infections with masks, distance, avoiding
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congregate settings, and washing hands. and on the next and final slide, just yesterday evening, and accomplished virologist gave a nice description and hit upon many of the things that i just described to you. if you want to look at it in some detail, i recommend that you take a look at this article that came out yesterday. i will stop there. back to andy. mr. slavitt: let's go to q and a. >> great, first question, sam with wvab atlanta. sam: thank you for taking my question. i am wondering if you can share more details on the mass vaccination site y'all will be setting up in atlanta. i have been covering the active mass vaccination effort from the county health department there and i have heard from people in some parts of the south side of atlanta that mercedes-benz is a
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hard place for them to reach. is there going to be further outreach to make sure people have access to this and not just that it is set up? mr. slavitt: thank you for the question. i cannot give you the specifics, will be glad to follow-up up with you. i will say with all of our mass vaccination sites efforts, the first week, we really see a lot of adjusting to the needs of the local community including how appointments are reserved, including whether there are mobile vans and clinics that need to be set up. including transportation issues and arranging transportation. you may be aware that uber and lyft have donated millions of rides, so we are going to try to make sure all of those things are packaged neatly so it's easier for people, particularly those who have more challenging time getting vaccinated, to get there and get vaccinated, so
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thank you. next. >> hi there, thanks for taking my question and doing this call. i have a few questions when it comes to the johnson & johnson vaccine. you guys have acknowledged that there will be a little bit of a break as far as the shipment and distribution. what are you doing to prepare for the coming lull in the j&j's supply and how will that impact places that have already incorporated this in their vaccination operations? secondly, you spent time stressing that j&j is equal to the other vaccines and everyone should take it, but we have heard detroit's mayor saying that he is declining the initial allotment in part because he believes that pfizer and moderna are better vaccines. what exactly do you guys plan to do to counter this type of messaging, especially when it comes from a local official?
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mr. slavitt: i will ask dr. fauci to talk about the comparability of these three very successful vaccines. it is important to clarify that that was not actually the mayor's intent and not the mayor's comment. we have been in dialogue with mayor duggan who said that was not what he said, or however it was reported. in fact, he is very eager for the johnson & johnson vaccine, and i think we would reiterate the message that for all of us, the first vaccine we have an opportunity to take makes absolute sense to take, so thank you for allowing us to clarify. dr. fauci, maybe you want to reiterate the guidance around these three vaccines. dr. fauci: thank you. as we said many times and happy to reiterate it right now, we have three highly efficacious vaccines with a very good safety
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profile. each of them are very effective in preventing clinically apparent disease. importantly, all three of them have a very important effect of being extraordinarily effective in preventing severe disease and particularly, preventing hospitalizations and deaths. that is point number one. we don't compare one to the other, the only way that you can effectively do that is by having head-to-head comparisons in a clinical trial. which was not done. as andy said and i will reiterate, it is a question, if you go in and a vaccine is available to you, i would take the first available vaccine because the most important thing to do is to get vaccinated and not to try and figure out which one may be or may not be better than the other. mr. slavitt: thank you.
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i realize, i did not answer one element of your question, which is how are we preparing states and others in the distribution system for the pattern of vaccines that are coming off of the line of johnson & johnson. the same is true johnson & johnson as it is for moderna and pfizer. everyone we are distributing to, all of the states and jurisdictions, have at least a three week forward view as to their vaccinations are coming and they are able to plan for them. even if you just look at the pfizer and moderna vaccines, we have taken them up about 77%, and so far, we will continue to increase as much as possible. next question. >> great, can you hear me? mr. slavitt: i can. >> excellent. you probably do not have the
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answer to this, but how soon is soon on this guidance for people with vaccines? there are now millions of people who are fully vaccinated and making life choices like some grandparents i know getting on an airplane today. there is a sense of urgency and then i have one other question. mr. slavitt: noting your sense of urgency, you are not alone. everyone is eager to see what is next. the burden falls on the cdc is not only to get the science right, but to communicate clearly. i will go back to you dr. walensky to relate some of your points. dr. walensky: i will reiterate, we know that people are interested. the anecdote that you raise is one that is exactly why we want to make sure the communication is clear. everyone has a specific scenario of what they are trying and wanting to do, so we want to make sure it is very clear and
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can be easily adapted for individuals, their households, and their loved ones. >> when do you expect this crossover to happen where it will go from a scarcity problem to then an administration problem, having enough people to put shots in arms, and then from there, to a hesitancy problem? and on the hesitancy, has anyone in this administration tried reaching out to president trump who got his vaccine privately about maybe doing a psa? mr. slavitt: thanks for the question. your question is when do we go from having a shortage situation to an oversupply situation. not with a precise date, but it is not a switch that flips, but it is a sliding scale. it happens differently in community by community.
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some communities are already very engaged and focused on communicating with people about the questions they have and about getting off the fence and taking the vaccine. that has already begun. this has been a massive week of outreach with many people across, not just this administration, but experts across the country participating in that dialogue. it is happening and increasingly on a local basis. from our view, this is not something that will star as a -- start as a magical day in the future. it has begun today and that is something we have to make sure that we are addressing, too. did you have another part? i'm sorry, i feel like i forgot one thing you asked. >> the question was whether anyone in this administration has reached out to president trump who quietly got his vaccine but would seem to be a perfect spokesman for a public
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service announcement to supporters who might be experiencing hesitancy. mr. slavitt: we are glad that everybody who has taken the vaccine is talking about it, including him. we will note that we have governors of both parties who have taken the vaccine and who are being very public about it. and others as well. many people are waiting their turn, but we find it helpful for everybody. i particularly like the dolly parton song myself. one of my favorites. next. >> hi, thanks so much, you guys can hear me? >> yes. >> great. it sounded like you touched on this a bit, but i want to go back to the idea of the detroit mayor declining his city's allotted j&j vaccine and saying
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in fact, it is a good vaccine, but the moderna and pfizer is the best. how often is that happening and what are you doing to avoid this? what else can be said or done to make sure other cities follow in his footsteps? i have another question, but i want the first one about the mayor of detroit. mr. slavitt: the mayor's office indicated after we talked to him that that was a misunderstanding and not the intent of those remarks. thankfully, as dr. fauci is saying, people are grateful and we are seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to having the third vaccine, and i think people understand the fact that they are not directly comparable, given the time periods they were tested, and they all make it past the most important test, which is that they are able to prevent disease and particularly, severe disease and death.
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by the way, that is including testing in south africa where we have one of the most dangerous variants. maybe i will go back to you dr. fauci, again, because i do not think we can say it enough. it is a great question, but the message is getting through. dr. fauci: yeah, we have to get away from this issue of comparing one with another except to say we have a highly efficacious group of three vaccines. the critical issue that you said, in the important area of preventing against very severe disease leading to hospitalization and death, it is virtually 100% in that regard. that is good news. people want to get vaccinated and you go to a place that will have a vaccine, almost all will have one or the other. i would take the vaccine that is the most readily available to you.
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mr. slavitt: did you have a follow-up on hesitancy? >> i have a follow-up on hesitancy. there has been a lot of talk about african-american hesitancy, but also a hesitancy among republican voters. there was a poll that in michigan, only 29% of republicans said they would get the coronavirus vaccine. i am wondering if there is a special push for conservative voters who according to polling, are showing a big amount of vaccine hesitancy. mr. slavitt: we have seen a lot of the same information. we are engaged with stakeholder groups across racial and ethnic minorities, rural americans, to reach young americans -- all of those are important. our whole perspective is to leave nobody behind. the only thing i would take slight issue with is, we do not think this decision is a matter of political identity.
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i can tell you everybody from evangelical leaders to media figures reinforce the fact that while there may be different pockets of populations that may in fact identify whether their location our political identity, it is not driven necessarily by their politics. that is a good and important thing because we do not think it is about political identity. we are targeting specific groups with conversations and answering questions that people have and those questions may differ based on where you live or how you identify. this is not nor should it ever become a question of politics. another question. >> hi, everyone. thank you for the question, really appreciate it. want to follow-up on the report
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you referenced today. the fact that areas with mask mandates have seen decreases in daily cases and areas where restaurants were open have seen increases in cases and deaths. what is the broader message here and does this mean that restaurants should close down or does there need to be more vigilance? quick follow-up, i know that the data shows that larger shares of white population have been vaccinated as opposed to the hispanic, asian, and black populations. what is being done to address that? mr. slavitt: dr. walensky, do you want to take the first and you are welcome to talk but the second. dr. walensky: the science is now following the messaging that we have and this message has followed the science. we have demonstrated that masks work. we have demonstrated that in
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person dining -- this is not the first report that demonstrates in person dining, so i think all of this is consistent. we have known that restaurants have led to cases, and cases have led to clusters. this is another report at a large population level over durable period of time, that you have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases where there is on premise restaurants and dining. mr. slavitt: i will just add to that. number one, we are following the science and we are following the data, and we are following the work of the cdc. it is clear that these interventions work and they save lives. why somebody would not take advantage of a small intervention to save lives, that would be surprising.
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very clear, all three of us have said this. we are not done. we are making progress but there are also disturbing signs on the horizon and every time we have gone through this pandemic, we have learned that you can look a few weeks ahead and the world you see a few weeks ahead will not look like the world you live in today. the signs of what you will see ahead are with you if you will look for them. dr. fauci and dr. walensky have been very clear about what we are seeing today. we have to be straight with the public. in terms of health equity with racial and ethnic minorities, we have been the first ones to come out and say this is a challenge and this is a hard challenge and an important challenge. it has been a pillar of everything that we focused on. it does not mean that it is easy. there are three major thrusts to this initiative.
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the first, we have to meet communities where they are. we have to go to where people are and we have to make sure the transportation, working hours to hit people to allow them to get vaccinated. this is in large part, and -- an occupational disease, and it is a disease of living conditions. we cannot allow just a system where we generically throw out vaccine supply and let whoever comes to get it, get it. we have to make these focused efforts and we have these in the case of our community vaccination centers, retail pharmacies, and the emerging program on community health centers that these steps are working. second, trusted messengers. we are spending a lot of time with people locally who people need to hear from and want to hear from to feel comfortable to take the vaccine. people have legitimate questions. let me be clear, a question of whether i should take the vaccine or not is not
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illegitimate. they should be answered in a straightforward way with people who they trust. the record of these vaccines is outstanding from an efficacy and safety standpoint. and third, data, data, data. the more that we can look at this, the better we can focus on solutions. we need more states contributing data to this effort. we are committed to try to solve it. it does not mean that it is easy, but we are committed to try to solve it. thank you for all of the questions today and i hope everyone has a good weekend. >> a live look at the senate where lawmakers are voting on amendments to the nearly $2 trillion covid relief plan. they have rejected increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. after the bill stalled for several hours, democratic leaders reached an agreement over unemployment benefits with west virginia's joe manchin. the deal would extend the on a plumbing

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