Second Gentleman Pool Report of July 2, 2021

July 02, 2021

Pool Report by Mark Eddington

Sent: Reports:
July 2, 2021
17:05 MDT

SGOTUS Pool Report Utah

In stark contrast to the grandeur of Bryce Canyon National Park that second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited Friday, his message was simple:

"I want to tell you and all Americans to make sure if you're not vaccinated, to please get vaccinated," Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, told park staff, volunteers and onlookers.

Emhoff's tour of the national park in southern Utah is part of the Biden administration's nationwide America's Back Together blitz over the Independence Day weekend to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated and to tout the progress the country is making in returning to a pre-pandemic normal.

The push comes amid concerns about the emergence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is about 60 percent more transmissible and more likely to result in serious illness. It also comes as health experts warn of possible regional spikes of the coronavirus, especially in areas where vaccination rates are low.

In forging ahead with the America's Back Together celebration, the White House acknowledges it will fall short of its goal for 70 percent of Americans to be fully vaccinated by July 4th. The administration is pressing ahead in hopes the effort will help nudge the country over the finish line.

Despite the administration's best efforts, that is unlikely to happen in rural states like Utah, where only 44 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated and just over 49 percent have been partially vaccinated. To date, over 1.4 million Utahns have been vaccinated.

Emhoff's entourage arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park about noon and made three quick stops at different overlooks. About 1 p.m, Emhoff visited with Keni Floyd and Sergio Vasquez, interns with the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative, at the Sunset Point Overlook to learn about the Junior Ranger Program and the varied wildlife that call the area home.

Among other things, Vasquez held up a skull of a pronghorn antelope, the fastest land mammal in North America, and asked onlookers what was the fastest.

"A cheetah," one girl answered.

Camden Edwards, a 10-year-old from Dallas, Texas, chimed in with the correct answer for the fastest bird of prey -- a Peregrine Falcon, which can exceed air speeds of 200 miles per hour.

"How do you know this already?" Emhoff asked.

There are currently 200 Junior Ranger Programs in the National Park Service. The program gives children and families the opportunity to explore and learn about America's national parks and about how best to protect them for future generations.

Emhoff's second stop was at Bryce Point, a stunning overlook at 9,000 feet elevation with a panoramic view of a vast array of whimsical red spires, hoodoos and other geologic formations below.

Against that stunning backdrop, Emhoff met with Taryn Withers, a seasonal interpretive ranger with the National Park Service to learn about Bryce's geology and how many of its features were formed.

"What about those caves over there?" Emhoff asked Withers, pointing toward the canyon walls.

I was getting to that," she replied.

Sorry, it's the lawyer in me. I'm not really taking a deposition," Emhoff quipped.

From there, the second gentleman and his entourage visited Paria View, where Jim Ireland, acting park superintendent, introduced him to some staff members, volunteers, search and rescue people, and shuttle drivers, among others.

"This is historic," Ireland said. "I'm the first superintendent to ever say this: 'We're honored to welcome the second gentleman of the United States to Bryce Canyon National Park. It's a tremendous honor.' "

During the height of the pandemic, Bryce Canyon was one of the first large national parks to develop a plan and modify its operations, which allowed it to reopen safely and enabled visitors to enjoy the park in a new way.

Among other things, officials moved much of the park's visitor center operations outdoors, removed some of the seats on shuttle buses to enhance social distancing, shut down some of the lodges' food operations and changed the way they distributed food.

Bryce's modifications served as a model for many other large parks across the nation, which used its blueprint to make similar changes that would allow them to reopen during the pandemic.

Emhoff said visiting national parks was a mainstay of he and Vice President Harris' Saturdays when much of the country was shut down due to COVID.

"We couldn't even go outside, but we could get in the car and drive to the national parks … to help us, just like millions of other Americans, get through this horrible experience we've all been through together," he said.

Emhoff also touted the virtues of public service and thanked park employees for being on the front lines during COVID and helping visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience.

"You are doing public service of all different kinds … Thanks for all you do for all of us," he said.

Doug Emhoff, Second Gentleman Pool Report of July 2, 2021 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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