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As the country observes Juneteenth — a new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States — for the first time, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made public appearances, continuing their push to get 70% of American adults vaccinated against COVID by July 4, warning people of the concerning delta variant. Chief Correspondent Amna Nawaz reports.
As the country observes Juneteenth for the first time today, this new federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, President Biden and Vice President Harris made public appearances, continuing their push to get 70 percent of Americans vaccinated against COVID by the Fourth of July.
Joining me now from the White House is our chief correspondent, Amna Nawaz. She covers the Biden administration for us on Fridays.
Hello to you, Amna.
So, this is a federal holiday, observing now on a Friday, since it falls on Saturday this year. But the president did take time, as we are pointing out, to talk about the vaccination rate. What was the message today?
That's right, Judy.
Well, it is, of course, an historic day at the White House, as you mentioned, the first official commemoration of Juneteenth as a national holiday. But it's also a major milestone in the pandemic, and that is why we heard from the president today, coming out to deliver that message that 300 million COVID shots have now been delivered in 150 days.
The president noted that cases and deaths have decreased dramatically since his time in office; 65 percent of adult Americans now have at least one shot; 55 percent are now fully vaccinated. Here's what the president had to say in remarks earlier today:
It's an important milestone that just didn't happen on its own or by chance. It took the ingenuity of American scientists, the full capacity of American companies, and a whole-of-government response across federal, state, tribal and local governments.
Together, we built an unparalleled vaccination program and managed one of the biggest and most complicated logistical challenges in American history.
Judy, a White House official I spoke with earlier today said, yes, it is a holiday today and the White House is observing Juneteenth, but the president still felt it was important to come out today to mark this moment, to speak to the American public and show them how far the country has come in the pandemic.
So, Judy, the president taking a little victory lap before he headed to Delaware this afternoon. That's where he will spend the weekend — Judy.
And, Amna, the president did make a point, however, to warn the American people about this variant, the new Delta variant, which we know is now spreading.
Particularly vulnerable are those parts to have the country where people are not as vaccinated. What was the message about that?
That's right, Judy. The president did warn against that Delta variant.
And we know, in those less vaccinated parts of the country, in the rural stretches, Southern part of the country and communities of color, that remains a really concern. Let's not forget the latest CDC racial data, which is partial, shows that, among Black Americans, full vaccination rates lag behind all other groups.
And that's part of the reason why we saw Vice President Kamala Harris where we did today. She was on the ground in Georgia, where statewide vaccination rates still do lag behind the national average. She was visiting historically Black institutions. She went to Ebenezer Baptist Church. She went to Clark Atlanta University. They were both acting as vaccination sites today.
And she was getting the word out that people have to continue to get their shots, they have to urge others in their community to get the shot as well. Now, a White House official I spoke with today did repeat the message we have heard from the White House for a long time now, that equity remains at the heart of everything they do. They want to work to close those racial gaps.
But they also said there's work to be done ahead. And they do acknowledge that. We know, of course, the administration wants to get to 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4. I also asked the official, are you going to make it? Are you confident?
The official said, even if we don't, even if we're at 67 or 68 percent, the point is, things are starting for many in the country to get back to normal — Judy.
Well, it is a federal holiday, but a lot going on.
Amna Nawaz joining us today from the White House.
Thank you, Amna.
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Amna Nawaz joined PBS NewsHour in April 2018 and serves as the program's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
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