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.  •  August 12  •  12:40 P.M. EDT

    MR. ZIENTS: Good morning, and thank you for joining us. Dr. Walensky, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Nunez-Smith and I will keep our comments brief this morning so we can get to your questions.

    I'll start with an update on our fight against the Delta variant. The Delta variant continues to drive a rise in cases, with cases concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates.

    In the past week, Florida has had more COVID cases than all 30 states with the lowest case rates combined. And Florida and Texas alone have accounted for nearly 40 percent of new hospitalizations across the country.

    We all know that vaccinations are the very best line of defense against COVID and how we end this pandemic. That is why we've been tireless in our efforts to get more and more Americans vaccinated.

    For the first time since mid-June, we're averaging about a half million people getting newly vaccinated each and every day. And overall in the last week, 3.3 million Americans rolled up their sleeve to get their first shot.

    In the past month, we have doubled the average number of 12- to 17-year-olds getting newly vaccinated each day — critical progress as millions of adolescents start heading back to school.

    Importantly, we're seeing the most significant vaccinations progress in states with the highest case rates.

    In fact, in the past month, we have nearly tripled the average number of shots each day in Arkansas and quadrupled in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

    So, we're getting more shots in arms in the places that need them the most. That's what it's going to take to end this pandemic: more vaccinations, more Americans doing their part and rolling up their sleeve.

    Over the past few weeks, we've seen strong actions from across the public and private sectors to help end the pandemic.

    The President recently announced vaccination requirements for all 4 million federal workers, and we are working to apply similar standards to all federal contractors.

    On Monday, the Department of Defense announced its plans to add COVID-19 vaccines to the list of vaccines required for more than 1.7 million active duty, reserve, and National Guard personnel.

    And just this morning, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services announced new requirements: All 350,000 VA healthcare personnel and all 25,000 HHS healthcare personnel must now be fully vaccinated.

    State and local governments; healthcare systems; businesses, small and large; universities; and other institutions are also stepping up.

    Since last week, Washington State; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle have all adopted vaccination requirements, and more than 50 health systems across the country have announced that all staff need to be vaccinated, bringing the total to more than 200 health systems.

    Just in the past 24 hours, Amtrak, McDonald's, NBCUniversal, Discovery, and Capital One all announced new rules that workers must be vaccinated to return to the office.

    California announced all schoolteachers and staff in the state, serving more than 6 million students, will be required to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

    And the NEA and the AFT, two of the largest unions in the country — representing 5 million educators, childcare workers, and school staff — both came out in favor of school districts pursuing COVID-19 vaccination policies, including requirements for teachers and staff.

    And across the country, nearly 700 colleges and universities have announced vaccination requirements, which will cover roughly 5 million students getting ready to head back to school.

    So, clearly, vaccination requirements are gaining momentum across the country and are already covering tens of millions of workers, educators, college and university students, and healthcare providers.

    They will help keep people and communities safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

    Here's the bottom line: Through vaccination requirements, employers have the power to help end the pandemic.

    As we drive progress on vaccinations, we are accelerating our efforts to help states respond to outbreaks caused by Delta.

    Our COVID-19 Surge Response Teams have deployed more than 500 federal personnel, including hundreds of healthcare personnel in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arizona to provide emergency medical care.

    CDC is on the ground in Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri to help local outbreak investigations and vaccination efforts.

    We've sent ambulances and paramedics to Missouri and Louisiana. And in Florida, we've stood up dozens of free testing sites and sent 200 ventilators to hospitals in the state.

    And importantly, as Dr. Nunez-Smith will discuss, we sent five times as many lifesaving therapeutics to states in July compared to June.

    I'll close with this: We are doing everything we can to get people vaccinated and support state and local leaders on the ground. But as we have said from the start, ending this pandemic requires every American doing their part.

    So, please, if you're unvaccinated, get your shot. It's free, it's convenient, it works, and it's never been more important.

    With that, let me hand it over to Dr. Walensky.

    DR. WALENSKY: Thank you, Jeff. Good afternoon.

    Let's begin with an overview of the data. Yesterday, CDC reported 132,384 new cases of COVID-19. Our seven-day average is about 113,000 cases per day, and this represents an increase of nearly 24 percent from the prior seven-day average.

    The seven-day average of hospital admissions is at about 9,700 per day, an increase of about 31 percent from the prior seven-day period. And the seven-day average of daily deaths has also increased to 452 per day, an increase of 22 percent from the prior seven-day period.

    We continue to see cases, hospitalizations, and deaths increase across the country. And now, over 90 percent of counties in the United States are experiencing substantial or high transmission.

    As we have been saying: By far, those at highest risk remain people who have not yet been vaccinated. This week, we are taking two important steps in encouraging and improving vaccine protection for Americans.

    First, for pregnant people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, we are strengthening our guidance and recommending that all pregnant people or people thinking about becoming pregnant get vaccinated.

    We now have new data that reaffirm the safety of our vaccines for people who are pregnant, including those early in pregnancy and around the time of conception. These data build on previous evidence from three safety monitoring systems that did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who are vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies.

    Now these new data found no increase in the risk for miscarriage among people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

    Clinicians have seen the number of pregnant people infected with COVID-19 rise in the past several weeks. The increased circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant, the general low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19 infection among pregnant people make vaccination for this population more urgent than ever.

    Second, I want to take a moment to discuss what we are doing to help increase protection against COVID-19 for certain individuals who are moderately and severely immunocompromised.

    As we've been saying for weeks, emerging data show that certain people who are immunocompromised, such as people who have had organ transplant and some cancer patients, may not have had an adequate immune response to just two doses of the COVID vaccine.

    To be clear, this is a very small population. We estimate it to be less than 3 percent of adults.

    We've been working to identify how best to provide increased protection to these vulnerable people who are disproportionately impacted by severe outcomes due to COVID-19. FDA is working with Pfizer and Moderna to allow boosters for these vulnerable people.

    An additional dose could help increase protections for these individuals, which is especially important as the Delta variant spreads.

    Following the FDA's decision, CDC will hold a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices tomorrow to discuss this issue and offer their expert insights and recommendations. We look forward to that discussion and to helping support this vulnerable population.

    At this time, only certain immune compromised individuals may need an additional dose. Emerging data, including from a significant study published in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday, show that there's an enhanced antibody response after an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in some immunocompromised people.

    This action is about ensuring our most vulnerable, who may need an additional dose to enhance their biological responses to the vaccines, are better protected against COVID-19.

    The science and resulting data in this pandemic are moving extremely rapidly. The U.S. government, in turn, is moving swiftly to analyze the science and make the recommendations most appropriate to protect Americans. We know our vaccines are safe and effective. And if you have not gotten a vaccine yet, please do so today.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.

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