Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, November 12,
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room November 12, 2021 1:32 P.M. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
Q Welcome back.
Q Welcome back!
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Okay. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.
First, let me say it's great to be back with all of you, although as a longtime hater of heels, I do miss my slippers, so - which I'm sure some of the women in this room can agree with.
But just to reiterate, I had intended to go on the trip with the President about two weeks ago. I did not go on the trip because I had members of my household who had tested positive for COVID. So out of an abundance of caution, I stayed home. I received four negative tests, and then, on October 31st, I received a positive test.
And I put out that information out of an abundance of transparency. I had not seen the President or had close contact for five days, given the trip. And when I did see him five days prior, we wore masks and we were sitting outside.
As I noted in my initial statement - and was still the case even after that - I had mild symptoms, primarily fatigue. And I remain incredibly grateful for the vaccine and the impact of the vaccine in keeping me safe and other people in my house safe as well.
I also noted in my initial statement that I would be abiding by a 10-day quarantine, which, for the math, it started on November 1st, which was the day after I received a positive test. It ended on Wednesday, November 10th. And then, yesterday, per White House protocols, I had a negative test, and hence I am here back with all of you today.
So, I just wanted to outline that at the top.
I have a couple of other things.
Q Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
So, we've obviously had a very busy week as it relates to fighting COVID.
Our vaccination program for kids ages 5 to 11 hit full strength this week. Vaccines for kids are now available at 20,000 trusted and convenient locations. Our rollout is helping parents turn months of anxiety into action.
On Wednesday, we estimated that nearly a million kids have already received their first shot, and 700,000 additional appointments are already scheduled through pharmacies alone. That doesn't obviously track everybody, but that's still a significant progress. And we anticipate many more will be getting vaccinated in the weeks to come.
The First Lady visited a children's vaccination site this week in Virginia and is headed to Texas next week to visit another site to help communicate with families, with parents about the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines.
I also wanted to give an update on the success of vaccine requirements. New data show that as vaccination requirements expanded, our vaccination rate also increased.
In the past week, we're averaging nearly 300,000 first shots for people ages 12 and older per day. These are new people getting vaccinated. For comparison, in mid-July, before the pandemic began im- - before the President began implementing vaccine requirements, we were averaging less than 250,000 first shots per day.
It's clear that these requirements, driven by the President's leadership, are getting more people vaccinated, accelerating our path out of the pandemic, saving more lives.
The vaccine requirements we put forward are going to continue to accelerate our path out of the pandemic. That's how we see our path forward.
I'd also note that we're encouraged by the progress companies like JetBlue are making as they implement their own vaccine requirement. Here, we are firmly in the camp of accelerating our path forward, as we have conveyed.
I also wanted to note that over 27 million Americans have now gotten their booster.
And on testing: This week, we invested an additional $650 million in Rescue Plan funding to help point-of-care diagnostic test manufacturers scale up their production. It builds on aggressive actions we've taken over the past several months, including to quadruple the supply of at-home tests to over 200 million per month starting December. I know I ordered some from Walmart myself. They came the next day, and I use them at home.
Finally, on ensuring equity throughout our response: The President's COVID Health Equity Task Force submitted its recommendations to help us build on this progress. Already, we've announced a $785 million investment in Rescue Plan funding to support community-based organizations that are continuing to build vaccine confidence across communities of color, rural areas, and low-income populations.
Finally, I would note 99 percent of schools are open for in-person learning, and we're helping parents get their kids vaccinated, which means now 95 percent of people in this country are eligible to be vaccinated.
Finally, a week ahead:
On Monday, the President and the First Lady will participate in a Tribal Nations summit coinciding with national Native American Heritage Month. This will be the first summit since 2016 and the first time that this summit has been hosted at the White House. The President will address Tribal leaders and announce a number of steps to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans, and protect private lands, treaty rights, and sacred places.
The Vice President will be speaking at the summit on Tuesday, and members of the Cabinet will be joining to discuss dozens of agency-specific policy deliverables.
Also on Monday, the President will host, as you know, a bipartisan bill-signing ceremony for his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, where he will be joined by members of Congress who helped write the historic bill and a diverse group of leaders who fought for its passage - governors and mayors of both parties, and labor and business leaders.
Also on Monday - very busy day - have your coffee and spinach, or whatever - whatever your - whatever you like for breakfast. On Monday evening, the President will meet virtually with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China. The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC, as well as ways to work together where our interests align.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the President will continue traveling across the country to highlight how his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal delivers for the American people.
So, on Tuesday, he's going to be visit - visiting the New Hampshire 175 bridge over the Pemigewasset - see how I did that? - River in Woodstock, New Hampshire, which has been on the state's "red list" of bridges in poor condition since 2013. There, he will discuss how the Infrastructure Deal will repair and rebuild our nation's roads and bridges while strengthening resilience to climate change.
On Wednesday, he will travel to Detroit to visit GM's Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant. He will highlight how his infrastructure plan will build electric vehicle charging stations across the country, making it easier to drive an electric vehicle, and also investing in a huge clean energy industry that will put many people back to work.
In both Michigan and New Hampshire, he will underscore the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will create good-paying union jobs across the country.
On Thursday, the President will host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Obrador of Mexico for the first North American Leaders' Summit since 2016. He will participate in individual bilateral meetings with each leader ahead of the summit that day as well.
And last, but certainly not least, on Friday, he will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey, continuing the transition [tradition], in a ceremony in the Rose Garden. This is the 74th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. We're all very excited to meet the soon-to-be-famous turkey and its alternate. Did you all know there's always an alternate? Two lives are actually - two turkey lives are actually saved - which were raised in Jasper, Indiana.
With that, Zeke.
Q Thanks, Jen. And welcome back.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
Q On the health and COVID subject, could you speak a little bit about how frequently the President gets tested for COVID-19 right now? And then also, has - when does he plan to undergo his annual physical?
MS. PSAKI: He will be doing his physical soon. As I've noted before, as soon as he does that, we will provide that information transparently to all of you.
He is regularly tested under the guidance of his doctor. We do provide that information regularly to all of you. I'm happy to check and see when the last time he was tested and provide that to you after the briefing as well.
Q Thanks. And does the White House have any reaction to the sentencing of American journalist Danny Fenster in Myanmar? Any interaction from the White House or efforts on the part of the White House to try to get him free?
MS. PSAKI: I will say that, obviously, we are always concerned about the detention of individuals around the world - journalists, dissidents, people who are speaking freely and speaking on behalf of the media as well.
In terms of direct action, it really would be under the purview, at this point, of the State Department. I would point you to them for any updates on the status or engagement that they have with officials there.
Q And then, lastly, after this morning's APEC meeting, there was no resolution on the U.S. bid to host in 2023. Can you confirm that Russia is the obstacle to the U.S. hosting - or hosting that summit in a couple years?