Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts in Alexandria, Virginia
I don't know about you all, but following a Governor, introducing the President in front of about half the legislature and the national press when I was junior in high school—no, it wouldn't be close. [Laughter] I just want you to remember me when you're President. When I go by, don't say, "Joe, who?" Okay? Promise me? [Laughter]
Death of Former Senator John W. Warner III
Before I begin, I'd like to say a quick word about an old friend of mine—a quick word about Senator John Warner. I had the privilege of serving with John for three decades in the United States Senate. And I can say, without hesitation, he was a man of conscience and a man of honor. And in his life full of honors, the most enduring was his service to the people of Virginia. And we're going to miss him dearly.
And you know, John took chances. I was stunned—pleased and stunned—when, in the middle of my primary, John endorsed me for President of the United States. It was how things sort of used to be back in the old days in the United States Senate when I first got there. People—that wouldn't—didn't happen that often, but people would cross the aisle to work with one another.
John was a man of great integrity, and he's missed—going to be missed. And Virginia was just fortunate to have him as long as they did.
COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts
Now, Jacob, I want to thank you for sharing your story. And I want to—you pointed out that my wife works for the Governor. [Laughter] No wonder she doesn't pay attention to me when I'm in—around the Governor. But all kidding aside, I'm very proud of the fact that Jill has—teaching is not what Jill does, teaching is who she is. And she's done it her whole adult life, and she's still doing it.
I know some people said, "When you're First Lady, are you going to continue to teach?" She said, "Yes," but I don't think she bargained for having to teach online initially. [Laughter] You know, I—students, I watched her. She spent more time—4 hours a day for about a month—learning how to teach online. So don't feel bad about you all having to do it too. [Laughter] I watched the teachers having to do it.
Any rate—and I just want to say that, you know, we're in a position now—Governor Northam, I want to thank you for your welcome to the Commonwealth. And I want to thank you for all you're doing to help win the fight against COVID. You're one of the best Governors in the country in taking this on, and you did it from the beginning. [Applause]
And, Mayor Wilson, thanks for the passport into the city. [Laughter] I promise I'll leave in time, but thank you.
And Congressmen Connolly and Beyer, they are both Members of Congress, but Congressman Connolly got to the Congress with a real impediment. He worked for me for years before that on my staff. [Laughter] And everything has gone downhill since you left, Gerald. [Laughter] But thank you.
And I want to thank the Speaker as well and the Senate Majority Leader, as well as thank all of you working so hard for the people here in Northern Virginia.
Four months after I took office, we're further along in this fight than anyone thought possible. Let's remember where we were 129 days ago: When I took office, we were averaging 184,000 cases per day nationwide. Here in Virginia, as the Governor pointed out, schools were closed. Main Street had gone quiet here and in cities all across America. Virginia Tech, didn't play in a bowl game this winter, first time in 28 years. And so many joys of life, large and small, had been halted by a long, dark winter.
And today, we've gone from 184 [thousand]* cases per day nationwide to fewer than 22 cases—22,000 cases per day. Deaths have dropped by over 85 percent. Tens of thousands of moms and dads, grandpops and grandmoms, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends are still with us today who would otherwise have been lost. This has been true here in Virginia particularly. From 43,000 cases the week before I took office to fewer than 2,800 in the past week, a 93-percent decline.
We've been able to do it for three reasons. First, we planned and executed a vaccination effort at a scale and speed never before seen here or anywhere in the world.
Here in Virginia, that meant $247 million in Federal funding for community vaccinations sites; over 360 federally funded National Guard members supporting this State's COVID-19 response; getting doses to community health care centers, a thousand pharmacies all across Virginia; and creating a mass vaccination site in Norfolk initially run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the United States Navy in partnership with Virginia.
The second reason that we succeeded is, Governors, like Governor Northam, have been instrumental partners. Leaders in red States and blue States working with businesses, faith leaders, community groups to get it done at a local level.
And thirdly and most crucially, the American people. More than 165 million Americans so far have done their patriotic duty; 165 million have gotten at least one shot. Americans of every party, every race, creed have come together and rolled up their sleeves, literally, and done their part.
Now 51 percent of American adults have been fully vaccinated. Seventy-five percent of seniors fully vaccinated, leaving nobody behind: Black, White, Hispanic. Across the world—across the board, they've been getting their vaccinations.
In Virginia, 55 percent—as the Governor said—of all adults are vaccinated. I believe that's the right number, Gov. And look at what that means: We aren't just saving lives, we're getting our lives back. Stores and restaurants up and down Main Street are hanging "open" signs on their front doors.
And here, in a rock-climbing gym, we're greeted by another—and we're greeting one another with smiles, with our masks off. And I'm about to do this 60-foot wall, but you—[laughter]. I'll tell you what: I work out every morning, but I said, "I have trouble holding those grips there." [Laughter] And the young man said to me—he said, "The way to work your hands"—he said, "get a kettlebell, a light one, and just put it under your fingers and work it that way." Tonight I'm trying it. [Laughter]
But, folks, look, in Norfolk and Fredericksburg, fans are heading back to the Minor League ballparks, pools and parks are opening up across the State, families are heading down to spend Memorial Day weekend in Virginia Beach.
And all over the country, we've gone from pain and stagnation of a long, dark winter to an economy on the move, growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. From anemic job creation in the months before I took office, to the fastest job creation in the first 3 months of any administration in American history and rising wages. Rising wages.
As more Americans get vaccinated, the days grow brighter and brighter. But let me be clear: We're not done yet. We have to reach those who are not vaccinated and make it as easy as possible for them to get protected.
I set an ambitious goal of getting 70 percent of adult Americans at least one shot by July the 4th. Today, just over a month to go, we're at 62 percent. Ten States have already reached the 70-percent milestone. Virginia is at 66; it's moving closer every day. And continuing on all—counting on just all the help and continuing this process is really—I think you're going to get the job done here in Virginia pretty quickly, Gov.
To hit 70 percent and keep sprinting through the finish line is what we're all about. If we succeed, we can celebrate our independence from the virus together on the Fourth of July as we celebrate our independence as a nation. And the future is only going to get brighter because there will be no doubt what America can achieve when we do it together.
I know when I ran for office I said I wanted to do three things, one of which was to unite the country. It's difficult, but this is the first real evidence that we're able to do it. The American people are more ready to come together, I believe, than the Congress and the elected officials are, but we're getting there.
If you aren't vaccinated yet, it's never been easier. If convenience is the issue, there are 80,000 locations. Visit vaccines.gov or text your ZIP Code to 438829 and you'll find the sites nearest you; it will pop up immediately. And in almost all cases, you don't need an appointment.
If transportation is an issue—I want to thank Lyft and Uber. They've come forward, and they've offered free rides to and from vaccination sites through the July 4. So anybody who says they can't get there, call Lyft or Uber. They're doing a patriotic thing. They'll come and pick you up, take you to the vaccination center, get you—wait for you, and take you back to your home or wherever you emerged from.
And you know, if cost is an issue, don't let—don't be concerned; the vaccine is 100-percent free. And if time is an issue, there are 10,000 sites offering vaccinations without an appointment, 1,000 pharmacies in Virginia alone. And the vast majority offer at no appointment—with no appointment required.
We've made extraordinary progress. Every American should be proud of what we've accomplished, and we did it together. But we still have 5 weeks left to hit our goal. You know, we—and I know we can do it. Just look at what we've done so far.
There's not a single thing—and I've been saying this a long time—and I think a lot of the press, they're smart as the devil, think I'm being naïve—there's nothing we cannot accomplish if we do it together. I really believe that. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing we've ever set our mind to as Americans that we've failed at when we've done it together. And, Virginia, you know you're doing your part.
So, you know, I remember I always would hear the—in the last administration, I'd hear when they'd talk about vaccines and that, "We're going to—and we're going to make great, great progress." And they'd say, "There's light at the end of the tunnel." I was reminded of my generation in the sixties. There was a very raunchy comedian who'd say, "Yes, there's light"—when he's talking about the Vietnam war. He said: "Yes, there's light at the end of the tunnel. It's a freight train."
Well, this time there's sunlight at the end of the tunnel. There's real light. There's real light. And, Gov—I really mean this; I'm not being political—you've done one hell of a job, Doc. You've done a hell of a job and it matters. It matters.
So I want to thank you all. And God bless you, God protect our troops.
[At this point, the President turned around and addressed the children behind him.]
——tell me, why aren't you in school? Is school off today? [Laughter]
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:02 p.m. at the Sportrock Climbing Center. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia; Jacob Bosley, student, Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, VA, who introduced the President; and Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Virginia.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts in Alexandria, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350117