The White House COVID-19 task force held a news briefing on Monday.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
The U.S. on Monday finally reached President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into 70 percent of American adults — a month late and amid a fierce surge by the delta variant that is swamping hospitals and leading to new mask rules and mandatory vaccinations around the country.
Biden had set a vaccination goal of 70 percent by the Fourth of July. That figure was the low end of initial government estimates for what would be necessary to achieve herd immunity in the U.S. But that has been rendered insufficient by the highly contagious delta variant, which has enabled the virus to come storming back.
There was was no celebration at the White House on Monday, nor a setting of a new target, as the administration instead struggles to overcome skepticism and outright hostility to the vaccine, especially in the South and other rural and conservative areas.
Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus coordinator said there was “a strong sense of progress,” describing reaching the 70% goal a “significant milestones in our fight against the virus.”
The U.S. still has not hit the administration’s other goal of fully vaccinating 165 million American adults by July 4. It is about 8.5 million short.
Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical adviser, said breakthrough infections, when previously vaccinated people contract coronavirus, are rare with a percentage of 0.01 percent or less.
Fauci said there was “good protection” against reinfections until the virus evolved. “So, bottom line is, when you’re dealing with a variant, you don’t get the kind of protection that you would have hoped to have gotten from a previous infection,” he said, adding it was a still good idea to get vaccinated anyway.
New cases per day in the U.S. have increased sixfold over the past month to an average of nearly 80,000, a level not seen since mid-February. And deaths per day have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 259 to 360.
Those are still well below the 3,400 deaths and a quarter-million cases per day seen during the worst of the outbreak, in January. But some places around the country are watching caseloads reach their highest levels since the pandemic began. And nearly all deaths and serious illnesses now are in unvaccinated people.
The briefing comes just days after President Joe Biden issued new pandemic requirements aimed at boosting vaccination rates for millions of federal workers and contractors.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has warned that more “pain and suffering” is on the horizon as COVID-19 cases climb again amid the troubling delta variant.