“We’re going to stay at it and continue to make progress,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Thursday.
Despite those concerning trends, the White House gave no sign that it’s changing its course on how it has decided to fight Covid-19. After starting off President Joe Biden’s term in office with a mask mandate for 100 days and strict recommendations on social distancing, mask wearing and limiting crowds, the President and his team have largely encouraged people to return to normal once they are fully vaccinated.
The administration remains concerned about the spread of the Delta variant in parts of the United States with low vaccination rates but is not at this point concerned about the variant sinking the country back into the darker days of the pandemic. White House officials are closely tracking the spread of the variant and studies about the vaccines’ continued effectiveness. And officials say the variant has reinvigorated their commitment to drive up vaccination rates where they remain low.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday that while she “expected” the Delta variant would become the dominant strain, “this rapid rise is troubling.”
“We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and it is currently surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates,” Walensky said.
Still, the administration’s bottom line remains the same: If you’re vaccinated, you’re protected, and if you’re not, you remain at risk. This week, the White House announced it would build on its existing strategies and conduct more targeted outreach to Americans, provide more vaccines to primary care doctors and pediatricians, expand mobile clinic efforts and set up vaccination clinics at workplaces.
Those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are protected from the Delta variant, but some Americans haven’t done so or refuse to get the shot and only 47.6% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clusters of Americans who are unvaccinated are vulnerable to surges in Covid-19 cases and could become breeding grounds for even more deadly Covid-19 variants, which puts the entire nation at risk, health experts say.
Zients on Thursday acknowledged the next chapter of the administration’s national vaccination program would be an uphill climb. The administration is winding down its mass vaccination sites across the country and shifting to more targeted community outreach.
“Each person in this phase will take longer to reach, but that makes them no less important. And the spread of the Delta variant, which poses a particular threat to our young people, only strengthens our resolve to reach everyone,” Zients said.
Biden said on Tuesday that the US was projected to have 160 million fully vaccinated Americans by the end of the week, after the nation fell short of his July Fourth vaccination goals.
“Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” Biden said.
Biden had set a goal of having 160 million fully vaccinated Americans and 70% of US adults with at least one Covid-19 shot by July Fourth. As of Thursday, nearly 158 million Americans were fully vaccinated and 67.2% of US adults had at least one shot, according to the CDC.
The White House is focused on getting young people, particularly those ages 18 to 26, vaccinated.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week the administration would continue building on efforts in which they have seen the most success.
“You don’t just give up just because you haven’t reached every single person,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing. “We’re going to continue to apply where we, what we’ve seen have been the best practices over the past several months.”
Psaki noted door knocking to provide information about Covid-19 vaccines has been going on since April and is being conducted by “grassroots voices” and not federal employees.
The White House recently announced it would be deploying response teams made up of officials from the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency across the US to areas with a high spread of the virus because of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.