Remarks on the Federal COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Good afternoon. Today I'd like to update you all on where we stand on COVID-19.
Because of the strategy we executed over the past year on vaccinations, testing, treatments, and more, we're now in a new moment in this pandemic. It does not mean that COVID-19 is over, it means that COVID-19 no longer controls our lives. That's what it means.
Cases are ticking up, as we thought they might. But now, thanks to the foundation we've laid, America has the tools to protect people—all the people. And you know, as we've done on—from day one, my administration is making it easier than ever for Americans to access these tools.
Today I'm announcing the launch of COVID.gov—COVID.gov—a one——
[At this point, the President cleared his throat.]
——excuse me, a one-stop shop where anyone in America can find what they need to navigate the virus: free vaccines and boosters, free at-home tests, high-quality masks. And for the latest information about the level of COVID-19 spread in your community, you can get that immediately.
Now, you'll also be able to find our new test-to-treat locations, which I announced in my State of the Union Address. These are pharmacies and other places in your neighborhood where you can get tested. And if you're positive, you can get lifesaving treatments all in one stop.
We've already stood up 2,000 test-to-street sites—test-and-treat sites across the country. We're also nearly at—we have nearly 200 sites just to serve military families and veterans communities as well. We've done—what we've done throughout the pandemic, we've ensured there are—these locations are at the hardest hit, hardest to reach communities as well.
The bottom line: No longer will Americans have to scour the internet to find vaccines, treatments, tests, or masks. It's all there. And just go visit COVID.gov—COVID.gov.
And let me remind you: When I took office about 14 months ago, the pandemic was raging, the economy was reeling, and the deficit was soaring. Most schools were closed. We didn't have enough vaccines. The unemployment claims were sky high. And then we got to work, and we delivered: enough vaccines for every American months ahead of schedule, effective treatments, at-home tests that are free and accessible.
Over 99 percent of our schools are open again. Businesses are open again. And because of how we responded, we created more jobs last year than ever before: 6.7 million jobs. And by the way, we did it while cutting the deficit, the largest 1-year deficit reduction in American history. Say that again: The largest 1-year deficit reduction in American history.
But none of that happened by accident. We were able to do it because we coordinated across the Government, partnered with State and local leaders, Governors on both sides of the aisle, and the private sector to leverage every resource we had to fight against this virus. We left no stone unturned. And we were able to do it because Congress worked with us and provided us the necessary funding.
But now, just as we've reached the critical turning point in this fight, Congress has to provide the funding America needs to continue to fight COVID-19. We're already seeing the consequences of congressional inaction. The monoclonal antibodies—take monoclonal antibodies, for example. They've helped save lives. This isn't partisan, it's medicine. But Congress hasn't provided enough money to keep purchasing these monoclonal antibodies. We've had to cancel planned orders and cut the supply we're sending to the States. Without more funding, we'll start to run out of them by the end of May—the end of May.
We've also had to scale back our plan to purchase more preventive therapies for Americans who are immunocompromised, critical tools to protect the most vulnerable among us. Without more funding, we risk running out of the supply by this fall.
The same is true of testing. It took months to ramp up our testing capacity. The Omicron—we saw how vital—and with Omicron, we saw how vital it was and [that]* we have enough tests on hand to weather the surge. But without funding, we're not going to be able to sustain the testing capacity beyond the month of June. And if we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave of the virus hits.
Look, on vaccines—and most important tool in this fight—we're also running a risk. Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, authorized a fourth shot for those 50 years and older. We know boosters are critical to providing an additional level of protection. That's why I plan to get my second booster today right here after I'm done speaking.
If you haven't gotten your first booster, please don't wait. Do it today. Those who are 50 and older, as well as those who are immunocompromised, can now get it—get even more protection than they have from the initial first doses. We have enough supply to give booster shots to those newly eligible individuals.
But if Congress fails to act, we won't have the supply we need this fall to ensure that shots are available, free, easily accessible for all Americans. Even worse, if we need a different vaccine for the future to combat a new variant, we're not going to have enough money to purchase it. We cannot allow that to happen.
Congress, we need to secure additional supply now. Now. We can't wait until we find ourselves in the midst of another surge to act. It will be too late.
And we also need this funding to continue our efforts to vaccinate the world, with commitments we made. It's critical to our ability to protect against new variants. There's no wall that you can build high enough to keep out a virus. Congress needs to act now, please.
Let me close with this: I've worked so hard to get our lives—we've worked so hard to—we, all of us, have worked so hard to get our lives back.
We're summoning every ounce of American resilience; pulled every lever of our Government; called upon the goodness, decency, and patriotism of the American people; and together, we turned an unthinkable pain into an extraordinary progress and purpose. Americans are back to living their lives again. We can't surrender that now.
Congress, please act. You have to act immediately. The consequences of inaction are severe. They'll only grow with time, but it doesn't have to be that way.
We've proven what we can do when we work together. So I urge Democrats and Republicans to get this done with urgency. Let's stand united. Let's continue to pull together. Let's get this done.
Thank you, and God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
And now I'm going to get my second booster shot.
[The President moved to a chair to receive the booster shot.]
I'm not sure why I'm doing it on stage. Just to prove I'm getting it, I guess.
Q. Mr. President, what is the danger of Putin being left in the dark by his military advisers?
The President. I'm reluctant to comment on that.
Q. Can you comment on the declassified intelligence that he doesn't trust his military leadership, since it is declassified?
The President. No, I can't.
[Several reporters asked questions at once.]
Q. Mr. President, is the U.S. willing to provide security guarantees to Ukraine as part of peace talks?
The President. I'm feeling great. [Laughter]
Q. Is the U.S. willing to provide security guarantees to Ukraine as part of peace talks with Russia?
U.S. Immigration and Asylum Policy
Q. Mr. President, are you going to extend title 42?
The President. We'll have a decision on that soon.
Q. Mr. President, what did President Zelenskyy tell you about the——
Q. [Inaudible]—Mr. President, the difference between rich and poor countries on vaccination will impact your—the fight against COVID here?
The President. I'm sorry——
[Several reporters asked questions at once.]
Q. What did President Zelenskyy say to you about——
Q. The difference between—the gap——
The President. Somebody asked about the vaccines, which is relevant.
Q. For kids under 5, is there—are there enough funds to provide them vaccines for free?
[The President received the booster shot.]
COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts
Q. How does it feel, Mr. President?
Q. Mr. President——
The President. Wonderful. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, what did—[inaudible]—today about negotiations with Russia?
Q. Mr. President, are there enough funds to provide vaccines for kids under 5?
The President. No, I have to admit to you, I've always thought that it discourages people getting a vaccination when they watch people get a needle in their arm. So I apologize if I discouraged them. It didn't hurt a bit, and I was able to roll my sleeve up.
And thank you all so very much.
Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed
Q. Will you meet with Trevor Reed's parents? Will you meet with Trevor Reed's parents, Mr. President, while they're here in Washington?
Q. They say that you promised them a meeting.
The President. I'm going to see if I can get to see them. They're good——
The President. They're good people. I haven't—we're trying to work that out.
NOTE: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Joey and Paula Reed, parents of Trevor Reed, a U.S. marine veteran who was detained by Russian authorities in 2019. Reporters referred to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the Federal COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355268