WASHINGTON — President Biden celebrated a belated milestone on Tuesday, saying that achieving the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of U.S. adults for COVID-19 “will make a big difference” in helping end a pandemic made worse by the spread of the Delta variant.
“In the last seven days alone, nearly 3 million Americans have gotten their first shot. That’s the highest seven-day total in a month,” Biden said in a speech delivered from the White House, adding, “The message is getting through, apparently.”
Touting the uptick in vaccinations in states hard hit by Delta, Biden rattled off more statistics from places where inoculation rates have lagged and hospitalizations have spiked over the last few weeks.
Initially, he had set a July 4 goal of reaching the 70 percent milestone, but as new case numbers and deaths from COVID-19 fell dramatically throughout the first half of the year, the pace of Americans seeking inoculations plummeted.
In his speech, Biden lauded private companies that have instituted vaccine mandates for workers and noted that “even Fox [News] has vaccination requirements.”
Last week, the president drew criticism from Republicans when he announced new federal vaccination mandates for government workers and contractors.
But he continued to insist that his administration’s efforts to curb the pandemic were based on the sound advice of public health officials.
“This isn’t about politics. The virus doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. This is about life and death,” he said.
While the pace of vaccination has increased in recent weeks, the spread of the Delta variant and an uptick in deaths and hospitalizations caused by it have undoubtedly proved a major driver. As a result, Biden’s message on Tuesday was a far cry from “mission accomplished,” and he again took pains to point out that America is now in the grips of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” which he called “a largely preventable tragedy that’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The president was also critical, however, of the Republican leadership in states that have banned mask mandates for public spaces and school districts, and noted that Florida and Texas accounted for one-third of recent COVID infections in the U.S.
"What are we doing? COVID-19 is a national challenge. We have to come together ... as a country to solve it,” Biden said.
“I say to these governors: Please help. If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives,” he added.
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