Joe Biden

Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters

May 13, 2021

The President. Well, today is a great day for America in our long battle with the coronavirus. Just a few hours ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the CDC—announced that they are no longer recommending that fully vaccinated people need wear masks. This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside.

I think it's a great milestone. A great day. It's been made possible by the extraordinary success we've had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.

To date, we have given out 250 million shots in 114 days, and we're seeing the results. Cases are down in 49 of 50 States. The New York Times has reported that hospitalizations are the lowest they've been since April of 2020, over a year ago, right after the start of the pandemic. Deaths are down 80 percent and also at their lowest levels since April of 2020.

And as the virus tragically rages in other countries, as other nations—even wealthy nations—are mired in the challenges of a slow vaccine rollout and poor economic conditions as a result, things are very different here. In less than 4 months, we've gone from 5.5 percent to nearly 60 percent of the adults in America with at least one shot in their arm. We've gone from stagnation to an economy that is growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. We've gone from an anemic job creation to a record for job creation for a new administration.

All of this is the product of prompt action to roll out the vaccine and boost our economy. As I said in my joint address to the Congress, this vaccination effort has been a historic logistical achievement for the United States of America.

Over these past 114 days, our vaccination program has led the world. And that's due to the incredible hard work of so many people: the scientists and researchers; the drug companies; the National Guard; the U.S. military; FEMA; the Nation's Governors, doctors, nurses, pharmacists—everyone who has moved Heaven and Earth to get as many shots into arms of as many Americans as possible. And it's truly been an all-hands-on deck—for the country—effort.

You know, some people said we couldn't do this—that it would not be until the fall that we had this many people vaccinated; that 2021 might be a lost year for our country, as 2020 was. But we proved the doubters wrong.

I need to single out one more group to praise: the American people. The American people. For more than a year, you've endured so much and so many lost jobs, so many businesses lost, so many lives upended, and so many months that our kids couldn't be in school. You couldn't see your friends or family. All the moments that mattered so much—from birthdays to weddings to graduations—all postponed.

And most tragically of all: the lost lives. As the press here knows, I carry a card in my pocket with the number of lives lost to COVID as of the close of business yesterday: 580,073 lost lives. So many empty chairs. So many times a husband or a wife leaned over to touch their spouse, and they're not there. Moms and dads, sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, your neighbors, your coworkers.

Having been there in other circumstances, I know it's of little solace right now, but I promise you: The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. That's when you know you're going to get through it. You will get through it. But it's a long haul.

You've endured all this. When your country asked you to get vaccinated, you did. The American people stepped up. You did what I consider to be your patriotic duty. That's how we've gotten to this day.

As President, I can say I'm pleased, but—I'm sure the Vice President agrees with me—we're not surprised. Pleased, but not surprised. Because the simple truth is this: the American people have never, ever, ever, ever let their country down. Never.

This country is proving what we've known—what we've all known for so long. There's nothing we are unable to do when we put our minds, our hearts, and our souls into it, and we do it together.

Now, I want to be clear about what the CDC is saying and what the CDC is not saying. The CDC is saying they have concluded that fully vaccinated people are at a very, very low risk of getting COVID-19. Therefore, if you've been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat: If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.

But if you've not been vaccinated, or if you're getting a two-shot vaccine, and you've not gotten your—you've only had your first shot but not your second or you haven't waited the full 2 weeks after your second shot, you still need to wear a mask.

Look, we've gotten this far; please protect yourself until you get to the finish line. Because as great as this announcement is today, we don't want to let up. We all know how tough this virus has been. The safest thing for the country is for everyone to get vaccinated.

And getting vaccinated is easier than ever. We've worked so hard. We have 80,000 locations. Ninety percent of you live within 5 miles of one of those locations.

And you can find a vaccine site near you by texting your ZIP Code to the following number: 438829. Let me repeat: Text your ZIP Code to 438829. And it will get the place nearest to you; you can go and get vaccinated now. And many places don't require an appointment. It's free. Just walk in, get the shot. Anyone 12 years or above in age is eligible.

And for now, after a year of hard work and so much sacrifice, the rule is very simple: Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. It's vax'ed or masked. Get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, you can be around the vaccinated or unvaccinated people. But if you're not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, you should wear a mask for your own protection and the protection of other unvaccinated people. The choice is yours.

You all made this possible. Now let's finish the work of beating this virus and getting everything back to normal. Remember, as fast as we've gone, most people under the age of 65 aren't vaccinated yet. We've opened vaccinations nationally to all adults just 4 weeks ago. It's going to take a little more time for everyone who wants to get vaccinated to get their shots. So, all of us, let's be patient. Be patient with one another.

You know, some may say, "I just feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask." They may feel that way. So if you're someone with a mask—you see them, please treat them with kindness and respect. We've had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much politicization of this issue about wearing masks. Let's put it to rest.

Let's remember, we're all Americans. Let's remember that we are all in this together. If you're fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you've earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile—with a smile.

So it's a good day for the country. We aren't done yet. We're still losing too many Americans because we still have too many unvaccinated people. We have to get to 70 percent of adults started on vaccinations by July the 4th. And we have to take this pandemic, tackle it not just here, but overseas as well, to truly be safe in the long run.

There's still more work ahead. But I've said many times: As tough as this pandemic has been, we will get through it. We will rebuild our economy, reclaim our lives, and get back to normal. We'll laugh again. We'll know joy again. And we'll smile again, you know, and now see one another's smile, look at the smiles on other people's faces. Better days are ahead, I promise you.

And the best days for America are still to come. I promise you that as well.

Thank you, God bless you, and remember: It's never, ever, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against the American people. Thank you.

Coronavirus Prevention Efforts

Q. Mr. President, how do you enforce unvaccinated Americans to still use their masks?

The President. I don't—we don't enforce it. We, in fact, if you don't—if you haven't been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection and the protection of the people who are—also have not been vaccinated yet.

It's not an enforcement thing. We're not going to go out and arrest people. But the fact of the matter is, I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors and care about the safety of their families.

And, like I said: If you've been vaccinated, you don't have to wear your mask and you can shake hands. You can even give each other a hug. But if you've not been vaccinated, please wear the mask. Please wear the mask.

Thank you.

The President's Meeting With Republican Senators/Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation

Q. Mr. President, is there any update on your meeting with the Republicans, sir?

The President. We had a very, very good meeting. It was great to be back with so many of the colleagues that I had served with in the Senate, and I am very optimistic that we can reach a reasonable agreement. But even if we don't, it's been a good-faith—there's a good-faith effort that's been started.

Q. Did you compromise on anything other than the corporate tax?

The President. We didn't compromise on anything. What we did was, I laid out what I thought we should be doing, how it should be paid for. And my colleagues in the Senate came back and said they'll come back to me with a counteroffer of what they are prepared to do and fund and how to fund it, and then we'll talk again next week.

So thank you all so very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:58 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, John A. Barrasso III, Roy D. Blunt, Michael D. Crapo, Patrick J. Toomey, and Roger F. Wicker.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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