James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. July 6 1:04 P.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. Happy Tuesday. Happy July Fourth week. Okay, a couple of updates for you all at the top here.
After the President is briefed by his COVID-19 Response Team this afternoon, he will speak to the American people about the strong progress that the country has made in recovery because of its robust vaccination campaign, as well as the importance of every eligible American getting vaccinated, especially as the Delta variant continues to grow among unvaccinated people across the country.
By the end of the week, the United States will be nearing 160 million people fully vaccinated — which the President will touch on today as well — which is critically important, as fully vaccinated people are protected against the Delta variant.
He will also stress how the administration will continue its effort to work with governors, local leaders, and across the public and private sector to get more Americans vaccinated by making vaccines available in more healthcare settings and respond to hotspots.
The President will outline five areas his team is focused on to get more Americans vaccinated.
One: targeted, community-by-community, door-to-door outreach to get remaining Americans vaccinated by ensuring they have the information they need on how both safe and accessible the vaccine is.
Two: a renewed emphasis on getting the vaccines to more primary care doctors and physicians — something that we've seen as a very successful tactic with reaching groups with lower vaccination rates in the past few months.
Three: stepped-up efforts, which is complementary to my last point, to get vaccines to pediatricians and other providers who serve younger people so that adolescents age 12 to 18 can get vaccinated as they go for back-to-school checkups or get ready for fall sports.
Four: continue expanding efforts to make the vaccine accessible for workers. Access is an area where we've seen as a challenge and one where, as we've worked to address it, we've seen increasing rates. So that includes setting up vaccination clinics at workplaces and PTO or time — leave that employees can take off to get vaccinated.
And finally: expanding our mobile clinic efforts, meeting people where they are, and making sure we're taking the vaccine to communities.
Another COVID update: This week, both Guatemala and Vietnam will be receiving COVID vaccine doses from the Biden-Harris administration. Gua- — Guatemala will receive 1.5 million doses of Moderna, and Vietnam will receive 2 million doses of Moderna.
Also today, as part of the President's forthcoming executive order on competition — stay tuned — the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will engage in a series of rulemakings to increase competition in agricultural industries to boost farmers' and ranchers' earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations, and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like.
The President's executive order will follow through on a campaign promise by directing USDA to issue new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, making it easier for farmers to bring and win claims, stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers, and adapting anti-retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices.
Second, the EO will direct USD- — the USDA to issue new rules defining when meat can bear "Product of the USA" labels so that consumers have accurate, transparent labels that enable them to know where their food comes from and to choose to support American farmers and ranchers.
Something I learned that I found a little outrageous — we'll see what you all think — is that under current labeling rules, most grass-fed beef labeled "Product of USA" is actually raised and slaughtered abroad, and then imported to the U.S. for processing.
The President and the USDA believe it is unfair for domestic farmers and ranchers to have to compete with foreign companies that are misleading consumers.
Third, the EO directs USDA to develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmer — farmers markets, and developing standards and labels that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers and agricultural workers fairly.
These are just a few examples of actions USDA will take under the new executive order and in the entire federal government's mission, which will be — help move forward through this executive order to help increase opportunities for small and independent businesses to boost their earnings and to lower prices and increase options for consumers.
I think I have one more item. Yes. A number of you had asked me on the last trip I was on if we could do a little more to preview trips farther in advance, so I'm going to try to do that today.
As you all know, tomorrow, the President will travel to Crystal Lake, Illinois, which is located in the district of Congresswoman Lauren Underwood. There, he will visit McHenry County College, a community college that has a workforce development program and a childcare center — programs which his Build Back Better agenda invests in and the American Families Plan — we've talked quite a bit in here — has proposals in.
As the President presses for the bipartisan infrastructure framework, he's also pressing ahead on a dual track for the full breadth and scope of the Build Back Better agenda, which includes his climate — his critical climate priorities and the American Families Plan.
The President's Build Back Better agenda provides a once-in-a-generation investment in the foundations of middle-class prosperity: education, healthcare, and childcare. From making education more affordable and expanding key provisions like the Child Care Tax Credit, to providing economic security through programs like paid leave to families, the President will continue advancing his entire economic agenda to build back better.
Congresswoman Underwood, many of you may know, is a registered nurse, health policy expert, and committed advocate for expanding access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, which the Build Back Better agenda accomplishes by permanently lowering health insurance premiums for those who build coverage on their own, saving families an average of $50 per person per month. As a result, 9 million people would save hundreds of dollars per year on their premiums, and 4 million uninsured people would gain coverage.
He'll also, of course, engage with elected officials on the ground. We'll have an update for you as the schedule is being finalized on that.
With that, Zeke, why don't you kick us off.
Thanks, Jen. First, with respect to the COVID speech this afternoon, the rate of new vaccinations in the U.S. has been continuously declining over the last several months as access has increased, as promotions, giveaways — all sorts of efforts on the part of the administration and private sector was to get people — to get vaccinated has, sort of, ramped up as well. Is there a point for the administration where, you know — where people (inaudible) — or simply the acknowledgement that people who have not been vaccinated are choosing not to, and then — that the administration will stop, sort of, you know, throwing money at them or giving speeches encouraging them to get vaccinated if that's their choice?
Well, first, let me say, Zeke, that we had always noted that, at a certain phase in the vaccination process or in our fight against COVID, when we had more supply than we had demand, which was about two months — a month and a half ago, that we — the numbers would go down, in terms of the number of people who were vaccinated each day and each week.
More than 2 million people per week are getting their first dose, and millions more are getting their second dose. So our focus now is on doubling down on our efforts as we continue to vaccinate millions of people across the summer months. And that includes, as we've noted in here in the past, young people under the age of 27 who are being vaccinated at a lower rate than people who are 27 and older. And we believe that we need to continue to press to get more people in the country vaccinated, even as we're seeing rates in parts of the country that are over 70 percent — even some places over 80 percent. There's still more work to be done.
You are absolutely correct that it is ultimately up to individuals to decide if they were going — if they are going to get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, you are — most of — the vast, vast majority of people are safe from the virus. If you are not vaccinated, you are not. That is also a message that we're going to continue to clearly communicate.
But, no, these programs will continue, and we're going to continue to press forward on approaches that we have seen work in the past.
And switching gears to this massive cyberattack that took hold over the weekend: Is the President's view, sort of, just philosophically, that it's the role of government to protect businesses and private citizens from cyber — aggressive cyber actions like this — or cyberattacks like this — ransomware and like? Or is it an issue of personal or corporate responsibility? What's the, sort of — is there a ratio the President needs to sort of — it is 80 percent, you know, on the government to prevent these, and 20 percent on the companies? What's the mix?
Well, Zeke, I would first say that the attack over the weekend underscores the need for companies and government agencies, as well, to focus on improving cybersecurity. And we've talked a bit in the past about the importance of private-sector entities hardening their own cybersecurity, putting in place best practices that have been recommended by the federal government for some time.
But we are going to continue to be partners because it's important to, of course, protect our critical infrastructure, but also protect — do what — play what role we can, from the federal government, to ensure that impacts on smaller businesses, on mom-and-pop shops are minimized as well.
So we have engaged over the last several months, under the leadership of a range of officials, including Anne Neuberger, in a better partnership, more effective partnership with the private sector, providing resources from the federal government, and we'll continue that.
And finally, there's reports that Khalid bin Salman is in town, in Washington this week, potentially to meet with Jake Sullivan. Can you confirm that meeting? And then, also, is it a confirmation that the White House believes that he had no role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi?
Well, I can confirm that meeting. Let me see, I believe I have a little bit more information on it here. One moment for you, Zeke.
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister will meet with — or is meeting with, I should say — Biden administration officials today, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He's scheduled to meet with State and Defense Department officials as well. During the meeting, they'll discuss the longstanding partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia, regional security, and the U.S. commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups.
As you know, we worked to declassify a report that names specific officials who we felt — or who our intelligence community, I should say — were involved with and knowledgeable of the horrific death of Jamal Khashoggi.
Beyond that, I can tell you that, of course, this could be a topic, but I'm not going to discuss additional details.
Yeah. I just want to follow up on the Kaseya attack.
Have you had any communication at all with Russia about this attack? And I'm — I want to ask a few more questions. But President Putin and President Biden met and discussed cybersecurity. Were you under the impression that Putin would do more to prevent these kind of attacks?
So, first, let me say — let me give you a little bit of an update. Since the meeting between President Biden and President Putin, we have undertaken expert-level talks that are continuing, and we expect to have another meeting next week focused on ransomware attacks.
And I will just reiterate a message that these officials are sending. As the President made clear to President Putin when they met, if the Russian government cannot or will not take action against criminal actors residing in Russia, we will take action or reserve the right to take action on our own.
Now, in this case, you know, their — the intelligence community has not yet attributed the attack. The cybersecurity community agrees that REvil operates out of Russia with affiliates around the world, so we will continue to allow that assessment to continue. But in our conversations — and we have been in touch directly — we are continuing to convey that message clearly.
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