Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

Via Teleconference  •  Washington D.C.  •  May 18  •  10:19 A.M. EDT

    ACTING ADMINISTRATOR SLAVITT: Good morning. Today, Dr. Walensky will provide us with an update on the state of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci will provide an update on the latest science, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith will highlight our work to advance equity and ensure we are reaching everyone in our response.

    But first, I want to talk directly to young people about how full of opportunity this season is for them. It's May. And for young people, it is the traditional season for graduations — a time when very accomplished and wise adults share free life advice along the lines of: "Live up to your potential," "Make the world a better place," and of course, "Use sunscreen."

    Today, I'd like to join a little bit in that tradition. My message to young people, of course, is simple: "Get vaccinated." Whether you're a graduate, still in high school, in college, just out, or more than a little bit out, it's the most important thing you can do right now.

    Young people have been through a lot in this pandemic. In many ways, the pandemic has been as hard on young people as anyone. The pandemic disrupted your schooling, your job search, your income, and your social lives. Some of you lost parents, grandparents, or other loved ones. You have seen and experienced stress in a way you probably haven't before. I know it's been an anxious time and you've been asked to do difficult things.

    But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines have led to a dramatic decline in cases and hospitalizations and in deaths.

    For the first time since the pandemic began, COVID cases are down in all 50 states. We are winning the war on the virus, and we need you to help us finish the job.

    Getting vaccinated is something you can do to protect yourself and your family. It will help you and all of us return to a closer-to-normal life.

    There's also another consideration that graduation speakers would surely point out: As much as you have been through, getting vaccinated is far from the last thing your country will ask from you. Your participation in society is one of the elements of citizenship.

    In many ways, your generation has shown us how you make the world a better place. And getting vaccinated is part of carrying the mantle of becoming the generation that changes things for the better. To be sure, you have the power to help your country and the world for the better right now.

    And to help you, we have made it as easy and convenient as possible. Overall, there are more than 80,000 locations with vaccines. Ninety percent of you have one within five miles of where you live right now. The vaccine is ready and waiting for you. You can text your ZIP Code to 438829 — that's 438829 — to get locations near you with vaccines in stock right now.

    And if you think appointments are a hassle, don't worry: More than 20,000 local pharmacies in communities across the nation are offering walk-in vaccines. That's right: No need for an appointment.

    These vaccinations are essential. However, if you are unvaccinated, you are at risk, regardless of your age. According to the CDC, more than 3 million kids under 17 have contracted COVID-19. And even though it's rare for kids to get severely ill from COVID-19, it can happen. So, let's prevent that.

    Vaccines are offering hundreds of millions of Americans the protection they need to return to closer-to-normal lives. As the CDC announced last week, fully vaccinated individuals can now safely do nearly all daily activities without a mask.

    I want to reveal something personal, with permission, that underscores their importance. Last fall, one of my sons con- — contracted COVID-19. Unfortunately, he is one of the many Americans battling long-term symptoms.

    He's young and fit and in the prime of his life. But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms. His hands are cold to the touch. Neither he nor his parents — my wife and I — are sure how long this will last. Many young people are in this situation, and many, many have it worse.

    I know it's easy when you're young to imagine that these things don't affect you. A vaccine may feel unnecessary. You feel healthy. You know people who have had COVID and are doing all right.

    But we are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID. And, as you'll hear from Dr. Walensky, while cases and hospitalizations and deaths are down, COVID patients now tend to be younger. More than 1 in 3 COVID hospitalizations are people younger than age 50.

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    But there is excellent news. Through years of research, scientists have found a way to safely protect us from this deadly virus. And thanks to the President's leadership, we have secured enough vaccine supply for all eligible Americans. This week, more than 27 million doses will go out into the country.

    And to make sure more people around the world have access to these lifesaving vaccines, yesterday, the President announced that, over the next six weeks, the U.S. will be sending 80 million doses overseas. This is five times more than any other country in the world has shared.

    We will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries. We will work with COVAX and other partners to ensure that they are delivered in ways that are equitable and follow the science and public health data.

    You should be proud of not only the progress we are making, but also of the contribution you and your country are making and will be making to the globe. We are not resting on our laurels here in the U.S. We must finish the job. And we must, along with others around the globe, do what we've done in the U.S. all over the world.

    And, with that, over to Dr. Walensky.

    DR. WALENSKY: Good morning. Thank you. I'm pleased to be with you today. Let's begin again with the overview of the data.

    Yesterday, CDC reported 17,724 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest daily case numbers since June 2020.

    The seven-day average of hospital admissions is 3,500 — again, a positive sign with another back-to-back decrease of almost 18 percent from the prior seven-day period.

    And seven-day average daily deaths have also declined to a new low of 546 per day. The last time our seven-day average was this low was in March 2020 — essentially, since the pandemic began in large parts of the United States.

    The past week has been a big week, with progress and milestones that set us on a path out of this pandemic.

    We should all have cautious optimism. Cases have continued to decrease and have not been this low since spring of last year. Hospital admissions are down, deaths are down, and we are vaccinating between 1.5 million and 2 million people per day.

    And we are now working with governors and local leaders who are looking at their case transmission rates and vaccination rates to make informed decisions about how to safely get back to the activities we have lost during this pandemic.

    This was never going to be easy, but we will do the hard work together and get through this together.

    Last week, FDA authorized and CDC recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents. In less than one week, we have vaccinated more than 600,000 12- to 15-year-olds.

    And in total, more than 4.1 [3.5] million adolescents age 12 to 17 have been vaccinated so far. My own son was one of them.

    Yesterday, we had a landmark day. As the President announced, more than 60 percent of people 18 years and older have received at least one vaccine dose.

    We need to continue to ensure vaccination coverage is uniform across the country. This will require us to meet people where they are, to listen to their concerns, and to help people make informed decisions about vaccination.

    Today, we will publish an article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that compares vaccine coverage in urban and rural areas, and communities in-between. We looked at county-level vaccination data for people 18 and older from 49 states and Washington, D.C.

    In this analysis — which looked at vaccination rates through April 10th, 2021 — COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower in rural counties, approximately 39 percent; compared with urban counties, approximately 46 percent. This was true for counties across the country, across all age groups, and among men and women.

    We remain committed to listening and to reaching out to communities in every corner of the United States in our work to narrow these differences and make sure that vaccine coverage is equitable regardless of whether you are live in rural or urban areas.

    Public health staff are working nationwide to provide trusted information via trusted messengers — meeting people where they are, wherever they are.

    For example, this past weekend, CDC staff were at the Talladega Superspeedway, where the Alabama Department of Health — with support from the Alabama National Guard, HHS, and the CDC Foundation — partnered together to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

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    We have truly made tremendous strides across the country to ensure people have access to vaccines. And there is still a lot of work for us to do ahead.

    We are more than 274 million doses administered. If you haven't yet been vaccinated, perhaps you will consider being our reason to celebrate one more.

    Thank you. I'll now turn things over to Dr. Fauci.

    DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky. Along the line of the advantages of getting vaccinated, I'd like to spend just a couple of minutes talking about vaccines that we're receiving, and the SARS-CoV-2 variants, and the recent data that is accrued over the past couple of weeks that are very encouraging regarding protection against the known variants.

    Next slide.

    In this paper from the New England Journal of Medicine from a couple of days ago, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed that they neutralized SARS-CoV-2 variants — shown in the yellow highlight — namely these variants: the New York variant, the California variant. The variant that's dominant in this country, including the E484k variant, remains susceptible to neutralizing antibodies with only a minor diminution in its capability.

    Next slide.

    In addition, if you look at the Moderna vaccine, again, in another study that came out just two days ago, individuals who were vaccinated with the mRNA, including elderly individuals, maintained binding and functional antibodies, again, against a wide range of variants shown on this slide. And importantly, the capability of neutralizing and binding lasted for greater than six months, as shown on the next slide.

    When you look at the durability on this slide, as you can see, the binding to cell-surface spike and the various variants — shown with the different colors — you had a very good sustaining of the ability to bind up to 209 days in this study.

    Also, as you might notice, they hadn't shown the 617 from India on this slide. But on the next slide, if you look at a number of studies, again, that have come out literally within the last few days, on each of them, the [inaudible] neutralization resistance to the 617 antibody suggests that the current vaccines that we are all using — that we've been speaking about — would be at least partially and probably quite protective.

    And then on the last slide — if we go to the last slide. Again, more situation with regard to the B617 and the B1618 that have been identified in India. And on both these circumstances, you see that these would neutralize with only a 2.5-fold diminution in titer. Which, as I mentioned in previous press briefings, that's well within the cushion effect of the capability to protect against infection and certainly against serious disease.

    So, in summary, this is just another example of the scientific data accruing and — as I've shown you here, literally over the last few days — indicating another very strong reason why we should be getting vaccinated.

    I'll stop there and back to you, Andy.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.



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