White House COVID-19 response team, public health officials update on pandemic efforts

April 12, 2021

The White House COVID-19 response team and public health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Office of the Surgeon General provided an update on the state-of-the-pandemic update, the latest science, and outreach and education efforts in a teleconference reported by the White House.

Jeff Zients, White House COVID Coordinator, stated:  

First, I want to provide a brief update on our accelerating vaccination program. As of today, overall, more than 112 million Americans have received at least one dose, and more than 66 million adult Americans are now fully vaccinated. That’s more than one quarter of all adult Americans that are now fully vaccinated. That’s up from less than 1% when we came into office 11 weeks ago. Our current seven-day average is now three million vaccinations per day, up from 2.9 million last week. 

And as the President (Joseph Biden) announced, all adult Americans will be eligible for vaccination no later than April 19th. Our vaccinations program is working, it’s accelerating, and we’re on track to meet the President’s goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days. However, we know there’s more work to do. That’s why we are accelerating our efforts to get more safe and trusted places for Americans to get vaccinated and meet the President’s goal that by April 19th, 90% of Americans have a vaccine site within five miles of where they live.

First, on the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program: As we expand to more pharmacies, millions of Americans are able to get their shot at their local pharmacy, the same way they get their flu shot. Today, there are around 30,000 pharmacies participating in the program. That’s an increase of over 70% in less than two weeks, and we are on track to meet the President’s goal of nearly 40,000 local pharmacies by April 19th.

Second, on federally run mass vaccination sites: Our mass vaccination sites, located in some of the most underserved neighborhoods in the nation, are run and staffed by FEMA and DOD personnel, in close partnership with state and local officials. And these sites have a combined capacity to administer 110,000 shots per day. On March 29th, the President challenged us to open at least a dozen new sites by April 19th.  We’ve brought nine online in the last 10 days.  And today, we are announcing two new sites in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Third, we are making progress on meeting people where they are. More than 500 community health centers are already receiving vaccine directly from the federal government. These community health centers serve nearly 30 million Americans. Two-thirds of community health center patients live at or below the poverty level, and 60% are racial and ethnic minorities. As we announced earlier, we’re expanding our community health center vaccine program so that all of the nearly 1,400 community health centers can sign up to receive and administer vaccines.

On vaccine supply: This week, a total of more than 28 million doses went out to states, Tribes, and territories and through the federal channels — more than enough supply to maintain and increase our current seven-day average of three million shots per day. In fact, over the past three weeks, we have allocated almost 90 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine to states, Tribes, and through federal channels.  And we are working with states, Tribes, territories, and our other partners to make sure they are administering shots as efficiently and equitably as possible. 

Both Pfizer and Moderna are on track to meet their commitment of each delivering a total of 200 million doses by the end of May. And Johnson & Johnson is working closely with the FDA to resolve any manufacturing issues at the Emergent facility in Baltimore and to secure FDA authorization. Johnson & Johnson is installing a new senior leadership team to oversee all aspects of production and manufacturing at the facility. And Johnson & Johnson will have full responsibility for the operation and will leverage the expertise of Merck as well. Johnson & Johnson expects a relatively low level of weekly dose delivery until the company secures FDA authorization. With FDA authorization, the company also expects a cadence of up to eight million weekly doses in total across state and federal channels later in April. Johnson & Johnson has also reiterated its commitment to provide at or near 100 million vaccine doses by the end of May. 

Now, even as we accelerate our vaccination program, we are seeing areas of the country where cases are increasing. The CDC tracks data and outbreaks at the state and county level. We will be offering to states with significant increases in cases a set of additional tools to help them to stem the spread, including, first, working with states to make sure they are using all of the doses they have received. Today, millions of doses have been distributed, but have not yet been administered as shots in arms. Second, we’re offering to surge federal personnel, including CDC response teams, FEMA, DOD, and other federal personnel to support vaccination efforts and get more shots in arms. Third, providing additional testing capacity, including increasing the availability of diagnostic testing, as well as screening in schools and other settings. And, fourth, offering more therapeutics and treatments. 

In closing, to be clear, we’re working to put this pandemic behind us as fast as we can. But as the President said earlier in the week, everyone needs to do their part. That’s why he has called on every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain or reinstate mask mandates. All of us need to keep up our guard and finish this job. So, please, please wear a mask, socially distance, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of CDC, stated:

Yesterday, CDC reported 74,860 new cases of COVID-19. And CDC’s most recent data show that the seven-day average of new cases is a little more than 64,000 per day, up about 2% from the prior seven-day period. Hospital admissions continue to also increase. The most recent seven-day average — about 5,300 admissions per day — is up about 7% from the previous seven-day period. And deaths have continued to decrease more than 20%, with a seven-day average now of 711. Vaccinations continue to increase with the most recent seven-day average of nearly three million vaccinations delivered daily, up 4.5% from the prior seven-day period.

Earlier, I acknowledged the complexity of our current state of — in this pandemic. On the one hand, we have so much reason for optimism and hope, and more Americans are being vaccinated and protected from COVID-19. On the other hand, cases and emergency room visits are up. And as I’ve highlighted, we are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated. Those aged 18 to 25, 26 to 54 and 55 to 64 have increasing numbers of emergency department visits. Importantly, those aged 65 to 74 and those 74 and older have decreasing numbers of emergency department visits, likely demonstrating the important impact of vaccination in protecting against disease requiring hospitalization.

In Michigan and Minnesota, there are also increasing number of cases linked to COVID — to B117 variants in various settings. And in both of these states, there is concern about transmission in youth sports — both club sports, as well as sports affiliated in schools. While what is happening in Michigan and Minnesota is similar to what we are seeing across the country — increasing reports of cases associated with new sports — I want to be clear: As cases increase in the community, we expect the cases identified in schools will also increase. This is not necessarily indicative of school-based transmission. 

If fully implemented, the CDC’s operational guidance for schools and community-level prevention measures can reduce or prevent transmission in schools. And we have not yet seen evidence of significant transmission of COVID-19 within schools when schools have fully implemented CDC’s mitigation guidance. In addition to educator vaccination, testing remains an important tool in our overall efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, including in our schools.

CDC is awarding $10 billion through the American Rescue Plan to support COVID-19 testing in schools across the country. With this funding for testing, every state will have access to millions of dollars to set up screening programs to add an additional layer of protection for schools, teachers, and students. This funding can be used to test teachers, staff, and students with any symptoms of COVID-19, those who have may have been exposed to the virus, and to establish sustained screening programs across school systems. CDC is committed to continue our work alongside state and local health departments by providing technical assistance and support to assist schools and states in standing up and implementing these programs. As these are rolled out, we strongly encourage parents, staff, and students to participate to keep our children and our staff safe in school. These initiatives, a long time — alongside with strict adherence to public health prevention precautions and getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will help us turn the corner on this pandemic.

White House has the teleconference.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.