Remarks by President Biden at a Virtual Meeting With a Bipartisan Group of Governors | Beaufort County Now | Remarks by President Biden at a Virtual Meeting With a Bipartisan Group of Governors

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

Via Teleconference  •  Washington D.C.  •  May 11  •  1:13 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, hi, everybody. It's good to — I'm supposed to look over here and not at you guys. But we got six governors with us today — Democrats and Republicans — and they're meeting the moment: Governor Mills of Maine, Governor DeWine of Ohio, Governor Cox of Utah, Governor Walz of Minnesota, Governor Baker of Massachusetts, and Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico. And it's great to connect with you all.

    You know, last week, I provided an update on where we were with our vaccination program and — and what comes next. And I said our goal, by July the 4th, is to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated.

    And that's a pretty huge goal, I acknowledge that, but you've done a remarkable job. But if we succeed, we're going to be able to take a serious step toward return to normalcy by — by Independence Day, which is a goal that was not arbitrary, but based on talking to the docs — thought if we did what we'd had to do, we could meet.

    And there's a lot of work to do, though, to get there. But I believe we can get there. And part of the reason I'm so confident is because of your leadership — the governors — and — and your partnership with us.

    The governors with us today and their counterparts have been instrumental in helping us make progress and — more quickly than anyone would have thought. Working together, we delivered over 220 million shots in my first 100 days — well beyond anyone's expectations, but because of their cooperation.

    And today, more than 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. Over 115 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Nearly 85 percent of people — excuse me — 65 and over have gotten at least one shot. And whether it's a red state or a blue state, Black, white, Latino, AAPI — Americans from every walk of life are getting their vaccines. We got more to do though.

    Now, cases and hospitalizations and deaths are all down. Tens of thousands of moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, neighbors, friends are still with us who, I believe — whom would have otherwise — we would have lost but for the work of these governors.

    And millions of Americans are starting to live life more normally after more than a year of sacrifice. And I know everybody is tired of hearing me say this online here, but it isn't Democratic progress or Republican progress, it's American progress.

    And now — now, we've got to take the next step together. I know every week you meet with Jeff Zients, who's here with me, and he — you go through it. And I've had a chance to meet with the governors' conference and others, but it's — we — we decided from the very beginning, as you all remember, that — how many govs did you speak with in the last — just today was the -

    MR. ZIENTS: Well, today we had our weekly call.

    THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, weekly.

    MR. ZIENTS: So, most governors attend that call, which is great.

    THE PRESIDENT: And — but the point is that we know we want to get something done. It's all about governors and mayors and county executives. It's all local. It's on the street.

    And to meet the goal that I set last week, we need to accomplish three things, in my view. One, we have to make it easier and more convenient for all Americans to get vaccinated. And you're busting your neck doing that.

    Two, to build confidence in vaccines by delivering facts and answering questions to anyone who might have one and have thorough answers.

    And three, by ensuring that we reach everyone with an equitable response that as — as we enter this next phase.

    And to help us get there, we've added two new tools. One, Americans can go to Vaccines.gov. Or they can text their ZIP Code to 3- — excuse me, misspoke — their ZIP Code texted to 438829. Let me say it again: 438829. And they'll get at least three locations near them with vaccines in stock at that moment.

    And at my direction, more than 20,000 pharmacies coast to coast are now offering walk-in vaccinations by no appointment necessary. And the governors are — you all are stepping up to increase the availability of walk-in vaccinations as well.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is shifting focus from larger vaccination sites to smaller community-based sites and mobile clinics to reach more people where they are.

    And we've recently made significant new investments around vaccine education, including funds to help states and community organizations get the word out on the local level.

    Just yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use author- — authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children 12- to 15-years of age. Twelve to fifteen. That more parents — that means parents who — who want to protect their children, younger teens who want to get vaccinated — we're a step closer to that goal now.

    And today, I'm also announcing additional steps. To ensure that transportation is less of a barrier, from May 24th through July 4th, Uber and Lyft — Uber and Lyft are both going to offer everyone free rides to and from vaccination sites. I think that is really stepping up. Both Uber and Lyft — free rides to — they'll wait — and from — they'll take you back home.

    And it makes it easy for students who will work with federal pharmacy partners to bring on-campus vaccines sites to dozens of the nation's largest community colleges this summer. And I want to thank the governors here for making it easy as possible for students to get vaccinated.

    And finally, I'm announcing today that FEMA is making support available immediately for community vaccination outreach efforts. This will help states, Tribes, territories, local governments, and community- and faith-based organizations to make more progress on the ground — things like phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, pop-up vaccination sites at workplaces and houses of worship.

    And so, once again, governors in so many states, particularly the six that are here, have been essential partners in this effort. And they know it isn't about politics; it's about saving lives and livelihoods, rebuilding our economy, and getting us back to our way of life.

    So it gets to have — so, you know, the idea that we have six of the best governors who have worked on this with me today is really a pleasure. And all of you have done a remarkable job. And with your permission, I'd like to hear from you about the best practices and innovations that have worked for you, what you've learned across these three areas — on improving access, building confidence, and ensuring equity.

    And I would like to start by talking about improving access to vaccines. Governor Mills of Maine and Governor DeWine of Ohio, both of you have developed creative programs to meet people where they are.

    Governor Mills, if you don't mind, I like to ask you how — how are you reaching out to people and encouraging them to get vaccinated? And what kind of success are you having?

    GOVERNOR MILLS: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for all you're doing to help us get shots in arms. It's a great honor to join you and fellow governors across the nation to share these innovative ways that Maine is vaccinating people against COVID-19.

    Maine has had some of the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the country since the onset of the pandemic. The people of our state believe in the science, and they have followed public health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

    Now we are closing in on the 70 percent of adults that you want us to close in on — 70 percent of adults in Maine having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine — the goal you set. Right now, we're at 67 percent.

    THE PRESIDENT: All right.

    GOVERNOR MILLS: And about — and about 53 percent of all eligible people in Maine are fully vaccinated.

    Well, that achievement has not been without challenges. We're a rural state, as you know, of 1.3 million people — the most dispersed population of any state in the lower 48, with small cities; with towns surrounded by blueberry barrens, potato fields, and forests; towns on islands; people living at the very end of a road.

    In fact, when we asked people in Maine to stay six feet apart — or, as the fishermen say, "one fathom" — some people asked, "Why so close?" (Laughter.)

    We're also the oldest — oldest state in the nation with more than 20 percent of our population being over 65. So, low population density and age are our big challenges.

    When we began this massive logistical undertaking, getting vaccines into shot — into arms, we focused on equity, we focused on addressing what made us the most — most vulnerable to the virus.

    So we knew that older individuals were more likely to get very sick and suffer and die. So after healthcare providers and first responders, we then began vaccinating people over 60 — over the age of 60.

    As a supply increased — thank you very much — and as we expanded — we expanded eligibility by age, by April 7th, everyone 16 and older was eligible. Today, as I mentioned, more than half of all eligible people are fully vaccinated.

    Nearly every day, our state has led the nation in getting shots in arms, but we're not dropping our guard. We're not slowing down. Every shot in arm, we know, is a death prevented, a life saved, a family kept whole.

    So Maine is doubling down on access, especially in hard-to-reach communities and for people who are hesitant, like the woman in Western Maine who drove a truck five miles down from her mountain-top home to be the first line of the pharmacy one morning. If you build it, we thought, they will come. (Laughter.)

    With remarkable cooperation by our big healthcare systems, we started with the mass vaccination clinics, with the National Guard, local personnel, and volunteers.

    Now we are participating with FEMA on a mobile vaccination unit that's getting to those hard-to-reach people in underserved populations. We have drive-thru clinics for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We're hosting pop-up clinics for hard-to-reach groups at their workplaces. We vaccinated homebound seniors in their homes. And we've expanded walk-in hours and morning and late evening hours for shift workers, like the woman working the night shift in a bakery in Lewiston.

    We brought clinics to the islands for fishermen's families. We've operated clinics at houses of worship, from mosques to the Methodists. And like many other states, we've offered free transportation and a very smooth vaccination experience.

    But I'm pleased to announce to you that, as of today, for those who get their first shot between now and Memorial Day, we're offering a voucher from our Fish and Wildlife Department, and our Parks and Conservation folks, and from retailers like L.L. Bean; the Portland Sea Dogs, our minor league baseball team Charlie knows so well; and the Oxford Plains Speedway, our biggest racetrack, to get free tickets to a ballgame or a race event, a free fishing license or hunting license, or gift card for outdoor gear.

    We're calling this "Your Shot to Get Outdoors." Oh, it's corny, I know. (Laughter.) But we — we know that people in Maine have found refuge and relief in Mother Nature throughout the pandemic. So these incentives will encourage that outdoor activity while getting more shots in arms as quickly as possible.

    So, thank you, Mr. President, for your support for all the states. Maine is doing everything we can to put this pandemic behind us. We're giving it our best shot.

    Thank you.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.



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