Via Teleconference Washington D.C. March 22 11:02 A.M. EDT
ACTING ADMINISTRATOR SLAVITT:
Good morning. Thank you for joining us. We're now two months into our national strategy to defeat COVID-19. At the heart of our plan are a number of critical activities.
Vaccinations: We've had to significantly ramp up vaccine production to a level more than double when we arrived, acquired enough vaccines to vaccinate the population, and have set up a deadline — May 1st — by which all Americans should be eligible to get a vaccine.
We've done this not only by increasing vaccine production, but also adding thousands more vaccinators and thousands of additional locations to get vaccinated.
We are now vaccinating about 2.5 million people per day, up from 900,000 when we arrived. This weekend was the first time that the U.S. reported vaccinating more than 3 million people on consecutive days.
There are now a total of 81 million people — or nearly 1 in 3 adults — with at least one vaccine dose in the U.S., and 44 million who are fully vaccinated. Nearly 69 percent of seniors have now received their first vaccination, and 42 percent are fully vaccinated.
A second core element of our plan is to get schools open and open safely. This has meant following the science, dramatically increasing testing, and making it a priority to vaccinate teachers. With $10 billion committed to testing so far, schools have enough resources to properly test their students and staff.
Today, we're taking another step in building an equitable and efficient response. The state of Washington will receive its first federally — federal community vaccination site. The Yakima County CVC will be able to offer up to 1,200 shots per day. Local residents will be able to drive through the Central Washington State Fair Park and get a shot.
Now, this is the 22nd federally run vaccination site we've opened. And as you can see from some of the tweets on the screen here, these sites get great reviews as a place to get vaccinated. Combined, they deliver nearly 100,000 shots per day.
All of the sites are in areas defined by the CDC as having a high social vulnerability rating. In fact, against the backdrop of inequity in vaccine distribution generally, and the severe toll taken by the virus on people of color, in federal vaccination centers, over 60 percent of the shots have gone to people of color.
For example, Yakima County has been particularly hard hit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with disproportionately high infection and hospitalization rates as compared to the rest of the state.
The President has set a goal of doubling the number of community vaccination centers run by FEMA and the U.S. military to ensure that we reach the hardest-hit communities in this historic effort.
We have much more work to do, but further progress was made this weekend.
With that, I'm going to turn this over to Dr. Walensky and then to Dr. Fauci for some important updates.
Thank you, Andy. I'm delighted to be back with you all today. Let's start with an overview on the state of the pandemic. The most recent seven-day average is about 53,800 cases per day, which is a slight increase from the previous seven-day period. And over the past two weeks, cases have continued to fluctuate somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 daily cases.
The most recent seven-day average for new hospital admissions is just over 4,500 per day. Like COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions have been relatively stable over the last two weeks, hovering around 4,500 to 5,000 admissions per day.
Deaths continue to decline — a lagging indicator — with the most recent seven-day average of deaths slightly over [sic] 1,000 per day. Slightly under — sorry — 1,000 per day.
The apparent leveling off of cases and hospital admissions after the consistent declines we saw in these outcomes in early January through the end of February I consider to be very concerning.
In addition, while deaths continue to drop, they remain at elevated levels. And in the past week, the rate of decline of deaths has slowed.
We also know that the trajectory of the pandemic varies across the United States, with some states and regions of the country, such as the Northeast and the Upper Midwest, are beginning to again see a significant rise in cases.
Taken together, these statistics should serve as a warning sign for the American people. As I've stated before, the continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high, and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States, is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation.
Increasingly, states are seeing a growing proportion of their COVID-19 cases attributed to variants. The newly identified variant, B1427/B1429, is estimated to account for 52 percent of cases in California, 41 percent in Nevada, and 25 percent in Arizona. And the B117 variant is estimated to be responsible for 9 percent of cases in New Jersey and 8 percent in Florida.
Believe me, I get it — we all want to return to our everyday activities and spend time with our family, friends, and loved ones. But we must find the fortitude to hang in there for just a little bit longer. We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road, where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take. We must act now. And I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge, just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination.
Nearly 25 percent of the American population have received at least one dose, and over 44 million people — about 13 percent of the population — is fully vaccinated. And we have more vaccine supply on the way.
Until then, we must do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the proliferation of variants while we get more people vaccinated.
We now have 69 percent of adults over the age of 65 who have received at least one vaccine dose and 42 percent who are fully vaccinated. And we have seen that the vaccines are working. With increasing numbers of those over 65 now fully vaccinated, we're seeing the benefit. For the first time since last summer, the percent of those over 65 presenting to our emergency departments because of COVID-19 is lower than those age 26 to 45 in the United States.
These vaccines work. We're seeing it in the data. There are positive kinks in our curves. And we need to remain vigilant as we quickly get the rest of the American people fully vaccinated.
I'm calling the American people to action, whether vaccinated or not, to recommit to doing the right thing. Take the steps we know work to stop COVID-19: Wear a well-fitted mask, socially distant, avoid crowds and travel, and be ready to roll up your sleeve to get vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you.
Thank you. I'll now turn things over to Dr. Fauci.
Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky. We have some good news today in the field of vaccine, and that has to do with the results that were announced yesterday from the AstraZeneca trial.
As shown on this slide, there are three platforms that have six companies involved. For the discussion over the next couple of minutes, we're going to be looking at the chimp adeno vector that is used by AstraZeneca, which yesterday revealed the results of their phase three trial.
Just to refresh your memory, the vector that is used in this platform is a chimp adenovirus in which the SAR-CoV spike protein DNA was inserted. That non-replication-competent harmless adenovirus is injected into the muscle of an individual. The DNA then codes for RNA, which then essentially codes for the spike protein which the body makes the immune response against. That is the fundamental mechanism of this platform.
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