Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials 1 May
The White House
11:04 A.M. EDT
MR. ZIENTS: Good morning. And thank you for joining us. Today, Dr. Walensky will provide an update on the state of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci will highlight the latest science, and Dr. Murthy will share an update on our efforts to strengthen confidence in the vaccines.
First, I want to start by recapping what we’ve accomplished in the first 100 days and through our whole-of-government response that is treating the battle against the virus like the war that it is.
We beat the President’s aggressive goal of 200 million shots in his first 100 days, delivering more than 220 million shots in arms. Two hundred and twenty million shots in a hundred days, that’s a level of vaccinations no one expected us to reach this quickly.
By the end of May, we’ll have enough vaccine supply for every adult American. In fact, just this week, we shipped our 300 millionth dose to states, Tribes, territories, and federal channels. Three hundred million doses shipped — an important marker of progress.
Thanks to our accelerated vaccination program, we are far ahead of where anyone thought we would be in our war against the virus. Everyone 16 and over is eligible. And with 90 percent of Americans living within five miles of a vaccination site, it’s never been easier to get a shot.
As the President has said, this is an American achievement. An achievement we can all take pride in. An achievement that should give every American confidence and hope.
Going forward, in this next phase of our vaccination program, we continue to be laser-focused on getting more and more Americans vaccinated.
As I said last week, given that we have succeeded in getting vaccinations to the lion’s share of those most at risk and those most eager to get vaccinated, we are now increasingly focused on other groups that will take time to reach. And we expect the number of shots administered each day to moderate and fluctuate.
That said, we will continue to vaccinate millions of Americans each and every day. This past week, our average was 2.6 million shots per day.
Overall, as you can see on our vaccination progress report, 55 percent of adult Americans now have at least one shot. That’s up from 38 percent at the end of March and 19 percent at the end of February.
Looking at the next slide, you see that today we reached a major milestone on the number of Americans who are fully vaccinated. Today, 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated, nearly double the 55 million who were fully vaccinated at the end of March. That’s 100 million — nearly 40 percent of all adults Americans who are now fully vaccinated with protection from COVID-19 two weeks after getting their last shot.
That’s 100 million Americans with a sense of relief and peace of mind knowing that after a long and hard year, they’re protected from the virus; knowing their decision to get vaccinated protects not just themselves but also protects their families, their friends, and their communities.
A hundred million Americans who can follow the new CDC guidance released this week and go — enjoy going to the park with their family, dining and socializing with their friends outside, and many more outdoor activities without needing to wear a mask.
So, over 300 million doses shipped, 220 million shots in arms, 100 million fully vaccinated individuals. This represents significant progress and cause for hope.
We know we have more work to do. And in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue building on the progress we made in our first 100 days.
As I laid out last week, in this next phase of our vaccination program, with everyone 16 and over eligible, we will focus on vaccinating millions of Americans each and every day; continuing to improve access and making it even easier for everyone to get vaccinated; strengthening confidence in the vaccine by getting Americans facts and answering their questions; and ensuring equity is at the center of everything we do so we can reach everyone in our response.
We know it won’t be easy, but neither was getting 220 million shots in arms in just 100 days. And, together, we did it. We’ve seen what America is capable of when we come together and all of us do our part.
With that, over to Dr. Walensky. Dr. Walensky.
DR. WALENSKY: Good morning, and thank you so much. I’m pleased to be back with you today. We’ll start with an overview of the data.
Yesterday, CDC reported over 53,000 new cases of COVID-19. Our seven-day average is about 52,500 daily cases; this represents a decrease of about 16 percent from our prior seven-day average. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is just over 5,050 — again, a positive sign with a decrease of almost 10 percent from our previous seven days. And the seven-day average of daily deaths has also declined to 628 per day, a decrease of about 8 percent.
In addition to these positive trends, I’d like to share with you another exciting piece of news about vaccines. Earlier this week, CDC released a study examining the real-world effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. This study looked at hospitalization rates among people over the age of 65 and found that fully vaccinated seniors were 94 percent less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than were there — those who are unvaccinated.
Importantly, this study was done in a high-risk population — those over 65, who have endured a tremendous burden during this pandemic. This is yet another piece of great news that our vaccines are working to prevent severe disease.
I’d also like to take a look back on the last 100 days of work we’ve done to closely monitor COVID-19 variants. As we know, the more virus and viral replication, the virus has more chances to mutate, and this means additional opportunities for variants to evolve.
This is why we often describe our vaccine efforts here in the United States as a race against the virus: how quickly can we vaccinate Americans to prevent further spread of the virus, and the potential for new and more ex- — concerning variants to emerge.
Genomic sequencing is a laboratory method that identifies mutations or changes in the virus that contribute to the emergence of new variants. Taken together, genomic sequencing of many virus samples allows us to understand the prevalence of variants in circulation.
Over the past 100 days, CDC has dramatically built up our domestic genomic surveillance platforms to improve our visibility of circulating variants. Since January, CDC has increased the nation’s sequencing output 75-fold.
On January 25th, CDC ramped up the national SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance system — or NS3 — to begin requesting 750 specimens weekly from 64 public health jurisdictions for sequencing, virus isolation, and characterization.
In addition, CDC awarded multiple sequencing contracts to rapidly increase the number of specimens sequenced per week, going from 6,000 per week in January to more than 22,000 per week in April. Combined with the sequencing efforts of state and local public health laboratories, as well as our collaborations with academic institutions, the United States is now sequencing nearly 8 percent of the approximately 450,000 COVID-19 cases weekly.
With our current capacity and our cases across the nation coming down, we are on our way to sequencing even higher percentage of cases, which I consider a tremendous accomplishment.
CDC has made significant strides in — to make our genomic surveillance data more accessible to the public through an interactive dashboard on our COVID Data Tracker website. This site is updated weekly with the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants at the national, regional, and state levels.
We look forward to continued advancement in this area with the additional investments made by the American Rescue Plan, which provided $1.7 billion to s
trengthen and expand much-needed activities and workforce related to genomic sequencing, genomic epidemiology, analytics, and disease surveillance.
From a global perspective, CDC is also supporting sequencing capacity in more than 50 countries, such as India, Brazil, and South Africa. This support, including — includes defining standardized approaches, providing technical assistance to investigate variants, and coordinating with the broader research community.
As we mark 100 days of this administration, I am proud that we have collaborated with numerous partners to expand genomic sequencing and what all of that means not only to America, but to our global efforts to end this pandemic.
This work has made us better prepared for the threat of SARS-CoV-2 variants; helped us better understand, identify, and track the virus; and given us more tools to take actions that protect the American people and people around the world.
There is more work to be done, but over the past 100 days, we have ramped up our capacity to understand the virus circulating in our midst. And with 100 million Americans fully vaccinated as of today, we continue to move ahead in our progress to end this pandemic.
Thank you very much. I’ll now turn things over to Dr. Fauci.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky.
If we could move to the next slide.
Yesterday, Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times, wrote an article addressing the issue: Does it matter if one skips the second COVID shot?
So I like to spend just the next couple of minutes addressing this issue. Because now, about 8 percent of people — estimated — have not showed up for their second shot of a two-shot regimen, i.e. the mRNA regimen.
But if you compare this to other real-world uptake of vaccines that have been around for a while — this report came out a week ago in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, looking at the zoster vaccine in the United States over a two-year period — from 2017 to 2019.
And note — on the second bullet — it’s a two-dose vaccine with the doses becoming two and six months after the first dose. Seventy to eighty percent of individuals completed the series, which means that twenty to thirty percent have not.
So thus far, the 8 percent — though you’d like to see 100 percent adherence, 8 percent is within the realm of what you see what other multi-dose vaccines.
So let’s take a quick look at what the guidelines are that we know about the administration. The Pfizer-BioNTech gets a — it gets a single dose, and, 21 days later, you get the boost. For Moderna, it’s 28 days. But as the CDC has said, it’s not feasible — if it’s not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval.
And in the real world, there are many reasons why this might not be feasible. The second dose may be scheduled for administration up to six weeks or 42 days after the first dose.
So why is there some uncertainty about the importance of second doses when you talk to people and ask their opinion? Well, about 44 percent of adults reported that the vaccines provided strong protection by one to two weeks after the second dose.
So 44 percent of people are onboard, clearly, with the second dose. Twenty percent believe that the vaccines provide strong protection before the second dose. And 36 percent, in a recent survey, were unsure.
So let’s take a look at the results, both clinically and from a laboratory standpoint, about the efficacy of the first dose versus following the second dose.
So this is a study that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA in a nationwide mass vaccination setting in Israel.
Look at the column on the left, when you look at both infection, symptomatic hospitalization, or severe disease.
Although there is a significant degree of protection after the first dose, look at the difference between the first and second dose: 46 versus 92, 57 versus 94, et cetera, et cetera.
This is the study that Dr. Walensky just mentioned a moment ago when you look at individuals 65 years of age or older, where you have an extraordinarily good, effectiveness in fully vaccinated senior at 94 percent, as she mentioned.
But look at the partially vaccinated people — again, a reasonable amount of protection, but not nearly as much as you get from the two doses.
Here, again, is a study I showed you at a previous briefing from employees at the University of Texas Southwestern. Again, the unvaccinated, when you look at the percent of infections there, they did not do well. You do much better if you’re partially vaccinated, but there’s a 36-fold difference of getting fully vaccinated versus partially vaccinated.
Now, when you look at the immune response to a single dose of mRNA vaccines in organ transplant or cancer patients — and very, very clearly, the single dose was not adequate — this becomes really important. Because organ transplant, particularly individuals on a variety of immunosuppressive drugs and cancer patients — but there are a lot of people in society who are on things like glucocorticoids for autoimmune diseases that may not get a good enough response after the first dose, and we absolutely want them to get the second dose.
So, very quickly, let’s look at some of the data that backs up this clinical.
I showed you the slide before. This is the Pfizer-BioNTech, and we’re here looking at neutralizing antibodies after the first dose, which is at the 21 day, versus the second dose, which is that day 28 to 35.
As you can see, regardless of the age — younger individuals or older individuals — a dramatic difference in neutralizing antibodies between the first and the second dose.
We often talk about T-cell responses — the same thing. If you look at after the first dose — namely at day 29 on the Th1 responses to the spike protein — and you look at the responses at day 29 versus day 43, which is after the second dose — yet again, another important difference.
And then when you look here at the neutralization after the second dose of Pfizer, when you’re looking at variants — so concentrate on the blue-shaded area. So if you look at one dose two weeks and then three weeks after the one dose, and look at the effect — so if there are 15 vaccinees on the left, about a third of them had a good response about — against the 614, which is the standard virus. Got less when you did B117. And nothing against 351.
At week three, it got a little bit better. You had more against 614, more against B117, but still nothing against 351.
But after the second dose, both week four and week six, look at the dramatic difference — not only against the standard wild type, but also against the one that we have in this country that’s dominant, B117. But also look at, now, the presence of neutralizing antibodies in vitro against the 351, or South African isolate. Again, a much, much better advantage for the second dose.
So, finally, on the last slide.
What can we do to help people get that second dose on time? Scheduling follow-up visits before and during the first dose, reschedule canceled clinics, and send reminders.
Bottom line of my message: A, get vaccinated. And if you’re having a two-dose regimen, make sure you get that second dose.
Now passing it over to Dr. Murthy.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Well, thank you so much, Dr. Fauci, and it’s good to be with all of you again this morning. You know, as we pass our 100-days mark and mark over 143 million people who are vaccinated with at least one dose, I want to share a little bit more about how we’re thinking about our work ahead.
To help people protect themselves and the people they love requires us not only to build confidence in vaccines, but t
o mobilize people to get vaccinated and to make sure people have easy access to vaccine — vaccines.
Now, tracking vaccine confidence is nuanced, but there are two realities that remain true.
First, the surveys and studies continue to show us that since the winter, a growing share of people in our country have gotten or plan to get vaccinated. And we’ve come a long way since the end of last year.
Second, we know, not only from the data, but from conversations with community members and leaders, that there are still people who have questions and want more information about vaccines.
And that’s why we’re continuing to grow the scope and reach of our COVID-19 Community Corps, which, you’ll remember, is a nationwide grassroot network of health professionals; community organizations; rural, union, and faith leaders; and Americans from all walks of life who share a commitment to protecting their communities by helping people get vaccinated.
This morning, I want to highlight for you several more stories that we’ve heard about the work from a few of those organizations. One of our organizations, ACCESS, has set up vaccination clinics in Sterling Heights in Dearborn, Michigan, where they’re averaging hundreds of vaccines administered daily. They are forming community focus groups, which include primarily people of East Asian descent and people from Poland, Ukraine, and Sikh communities to address root causes of lower vaccine confidence and address questions.
Another organization, Peletah Ministries, is working with a large network of churches in eastern North Carolina. Peletah Ministries was founded to assist in disaster recovery following Hurricane Irene. And, today, the organization is engaging older adults by answering their questions about vaccines, dispelling myths, and helping administer vaccines when they — when their seniors are ready to get it.
The UFW Foundation, which is also a Community Corps member, is focusing on vaccinating farmworkers and their families. The organization has coordinated community vaccine events that have provided thousands of vaccine doses to farmworkers. They’ve established a national hotline to support farmworkers with appointment registration. And the team is also engaging farmworkers on the ground in six states to spread factual scientific information.
Finally, I want to share with you that Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has created D.C.’s own COVID-19 Community Corps. The D.C. Corps will be launched this Saturday, May 1st, as part of a “Day of Action,” and has list — enlisted hundreds of volunteers to canvass neighborhoods and help residents make a plan to get vaccinated.
The Day of Action coincides with the — with the day walk-up sites open across the city so that residents will be able to head straight to a vaccination site to get a free vaccine. If you’re in D.C. and want to get involved in the Day of Action, you can find more information at bit.ly/dayofactiondc.
Now, these are a few of the thousands of organizations that have grown up — that have joined the growing movement, rather, to vaccinate the nation. The Community Corps is ultimately built on a simple but powerful idea: that protecting the nation from COVID-19 requires individuals and committees to take action, not just the government.
And everyday Americans, community organizations, and businesses have risen to the challenge. And what that means is family members and friends helping each other make a plan to get vaccinated. It means doctors and nurses reaching out to their patients to answer questions and urge them to get vaccinated. It means faith leaders recognizing how easily rumors can spread and reaching out to their congregants with the truth about vaccines. It means social media companies taking responsibility for promoting accurate content and removing all blatant misinformation as well as more subtle, yet highly targeted, misinformation.
And it means workplaces giving employees paid time off when they — when needed to get vaccinated or to recover from temporary flu-like symptoms. This is a step, by the way, that is now easier, given the tax credit that President Biden announced for small businesses that provide such time off.
Ultimately, our national COVID-19 response is, in many ways, a test of whether we will answer this moment with a spirit of community that has always been at the heart of our country’s response to generational threats. And I believe that we will respond. Thank you for your time today, and I look forward to your questions.
MR. ZIENTS: Well, thank you, Doctors. Let’s now open it up for questions. First question.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Jeff. And, reminder: one question, one person. First, we’ll go to Nate Weixel at The Hill.
Q Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I’m wondering a little bit about these efforts to sort of decrease hesitation, combat misinformation. How much effort is the administration — how much extra effort, would you say, you’re, sort of, putting into some of the misinformation efforts out there? I know Dr. Fauci was out, you know, answering questions about Joe Rogan this week. I mean, how much does that play into helping solve hesitation? And how much is that, sort of, a distraction?
MR. ZIENTS: Dr. Murthy.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: I’m sorry, could you repeat the tail end of your question? I want to make sure I’m clear on the end.
Q Yeah, it was just: How much is that helping to solve hesitation versus how much is it — is sort of just a distraction and taking away from other work that’s happening?
MR. ZIENTS: Dr. Murthy, combating misinformation is the core of the question.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Yeah, look — look, I think that, ultimately, we know that people have questions for multiple reasons. Sometimes because there’s misinformation that they’ve encountered; sometimes because they’ve had a bad experience with the healthcare system and they’re wondering who to trust; and some people have just heard lots of different news as we continue to get updates on the vaccine, and they want to hear from someone they trust.
That’s why, you know, our efforts are focused on mobilizing trusted messengers, which include doctors and nurses, faith leaders, and family members to get information out to people.
But just keep in mind that — for people to get vaccinated, they need confidence. They need, you know, to know that this is urgent and important. And they need access. And that’s why we are working hard on all three fronts.
MR. ZIENTS: Next question.
MODERATOR: Kristen Welker, NBC.
Q Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for doing this call. My big-picture question is: To what extent are you concerned that people are loosening restrictions too quickly? Clearly, there have been significant gains.
I’m thinking about, specifically New York announcing that it’s reopening July 1st. Is that too soon or is that right on time?
I’m also thinking about the images we saw last night with the NFL Draft, hundreds of people in close quarters. I know they’ve been vaccinated and tested, but was that safe? Is that too many people?
MR. ZIENTS: Well let me — let me start, and then, Dr. Walensky or Dr. Fauci, if you want to add anything here.
You know, I think situations clearly vary by state. We are encouraged that states are focused on getting people vaccinated. That’s the most important area of focus, as we all know that vaccinations and getting as many Americans vacc- — vaccinated as efficiently and equitably as possible is our path to returning to a more normal lifestyle.
Dr. Walensky or Dr. Fauci, anything to add here?
DR. WALENSKY: I don’t have that much to add. I will just say that, you know, we are focused on getting people vaccinated and decreasing the case rates. You know, if we can continue at this pace — case rates are coming down, vaccinations going up — then I think July 1 would be a rea
MR. ZIENTS: Okay. Next question.
MODERATOR: Yamiche Alcindor at PBS.
Q Thanks so much for taking my question. I’m wondering about the dwindling demand for vaccines. You’re seeing — we’re seeing some of that, according to local reporting, in California and in — and in Ohio. How close are we to hitting a vaccine plateau? What would that even look like? And what’s the strategy if we do start to hit a vaccine plateau?
MR. ZIENTS: So, you know, we’re — as I said, we’re giving millions of shots per day, and as a result — you saw the data that we’ve already delivered at least one shot to 55 percent of adult Americans, and then today’s major milestone of 100 million adult Americans fully vaccinated.
You know, it’s not unexpected, as we entered this next phase, that there will be a more of a balance between supply and demand. And that makes it even more important that we make it easier for people to get vaccinated, that we continue, as Dr. Murthy talked about, to build vaccine confidence and ensure equity.
I think what is unexpected is how fast we’ve gotten here. We know this next phase won’t be easy, but neither was getting to 220 million shots in arms in the first 100 days.
And I think it’s why the infrastructure that we’ve built — having enough supply, enough places for people to get vaccinated, enough vaccinators in the field — is so important as we build on those efforts of having 75,000 sites where people can get vaccinated and thousands of vaccinators now online, 90 percent of Americans within five miles.
So this next phase is very focused on making it even easier, continuing to build vaccine confidence, and ensuring equity for all Americans.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Can I, Jeff —
MR. ZIENTS: I’m sorry.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Jeff, can I just add one — one piece then —
MR. ZIENTS: Please. Please.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: — which is, also — which is that — you know, I completely agree with what Jeff said. And, you know, I don’t think it’s a surprise, you know, that — you know, we knew that, you know, it wasn’t going to be easy to vaccinate the entire country. And as obstacles come up, though, we continue to work together with communities to knock them down.
But I also want to be very clear that at this point — that the effort to vaccinate America to protect our nation from COVID-19 is a collaborative effort. Like we need, certainly, the government to take action, but we know that we can’t get there also — to fully protecting our country — until individuals and communities and community organizations and businesses are all working together hand in hand to make that vaccination effort possible. And many are already are stepping up.
But this is one of these all-hands-on-deck moments when each of us needs to look around in our communities, in our families, in our fr- — circle of friends and ask people if they have a plan to get vaccinated. And if they don’t have a plan, we need to ask them do they need information, help them get information. If they need help making an appointment, you need to help them make an appointment.
It’s only by stepping up, all of us, in our own roles in society that we’re going to ultimately protect the company — the country. And the government should make it as easy as possible, which is why we’re so focused on access, getting accurate information out there. But again, this is an all-hands-on-deck effort where we’ve all got to chip in.
MR. ZIENTS: Well said, Dr. Murthy.
MODERATOR: Rachel Roubein, Politico.
Q Hi, I just wanted to drill down a little bit more into that. So we are seeing a growing gap in vaccine rates both between states and within states, where certain communities and counties still have fewer than 20 percent of their population vaccinated.
You guys have talked about the Community Corps, but what new actions is the White House taking to, kind of, address this growing gap? And specifically, how is the strategy evolving here?
MR. ZIENTS: Why don’t I go first and then — and then, Dr. Murthy, if you want to add on here.
You know, in this next phase, we — we’re making it even easier for people to get vaccinated: partnering with doctors’ offices, where people are accustomed to getting vaccinations. And, you know, 90 percent of doctors have gotten at least their first dose of vaccine. And people, locally, trust and look to their doctors and nurses and other healthcare providers.
Helping get workers paid time off, as Dr. Murthy talked about the action the President took last week to make sure that small businesses have tax credits to allow employees to have time off to both get vaccinated and to recover if need be.
Setting up walkups sites so that you can have a certain number of people each day, with no appointment, show up and just get vaccinated, making it increasingly convenient.
Dr. Murthy, you might want to expand in terms of new confidence efforts that you’re helping to lead here.
DR. MURTHY: Absolutely. Well, I would just say that the — we are continuing to expand the breadth of organizations and individuals who are part of our Community Corps, recognizing exactly what you said: that if we really want to reach all parts of America — rural and urban and people of all age demographics — we’ve got to reflect the diversity of our country and the diversity of partners that we have as well.
I want to underscore though the point that Jeff made about working with doctors and with other healthcare providers: that we know that around 80 percent of people who are trying to decide about a vaccine say that they want to talk to their doctor about that — about that decision.
And we’ve heard that loud and clear, and that’s why we not only want to, you know, engage with doctors to ensure they’re talking to their patients, but we also want to make it easier for people to ultimately get a vaccine through their doctor. And there’ll be more to say about that initiative in the days ahead.
But that is a channel that we’re certainly working on in close partnership with physicians, with other healthcare providers, and with medical organizations.
MR. ZIENTS: Okay. Next question.
MODERATOR: Jeremy Diamond, CNN.
Q Hey, guys. Thanks very much. So more than a dozen countries have either banned or restricted travel from India at this point. Why hasn’t the President taken any of those steps so far? And is the administration currently considering a ban on travel from India?
And then, secondly, I’m just wondering: You know, this morning, we saw the First Lady outdoors wearing a mask, even though she’s vaccinated. The President, yesterday, said he would need to wear a mask if he was sitting close to someone indoors, even if they’re both vaccinated, which goes against CDC guidance.
And so, given that the President focused on modeling the best public health advice when masks were required, why isn’t he doing more to show the country what you can do once you are vaccinated? Thank you.
MR. ZIENTS: So, in terms of travel from India, we remain in very close contact with our foreign counterparts and are continuously monitoring the situation. Our current inbound travel precautions and mandatory testing before travel — the quarantine for unvaccinated individuals and the retesting during that quarantine period — those are all in place for all international travel and have been effective.
Getting Americans vaccinated is the most effective tool, as we — that we have against COVID, and we’ll continue to follow the CDC’s science-based guidance on — on travel and other matters.
Dr. Walensky, I don’t know if you have anything to add here.
DR. WALENSKY: No, nothing to add.
MR. ZIENTS: Okay, next question.
MODERATOR: Zeke Miller, AP.
Q Thanks for doing this.
First, a quick point of information: When you say 100 million Americans are fully vaccinated, that just means they’ve gotten their second dose if they required a two-dose vaccine; that doesn’t mean that they’re two weeks past that dose, which is what is —
MR. ZIENTS: That is — that is correct, Zeke. And that’s why I was clear that everyone needs to make sure that they follow that two-week post. But they’ve — now 100 million Americans have received their second shot if they’re on a two-shot regimen or their one shot if they’re on the J&J regimen.
Q Thank you. And then just following up on Dr. Walensky’s point earlier about New York, that July 1st is sort of a reasonable timetable assuming the current trendlines are continued. Could you explain, Dr. Walensky, sort of, what that — you know, what would be possible or, sort of, now seems likely on July — July 1st then, New York’s going to 100 percent capacity at restaurants and bars and — and, you know, arenas and the like. You know, will masks still be required indoors? Could you sort of lay out a little bit sort of, you know, two weeks — two months from now, rather, you know, what should the American people, sort of, hope for?
DR. WALENSKY: You know, what I’d like to do is, sort of, say: The more people are vaccinated, the fewer cases that we have. And as we see those numbers come down, we’ll — we’ll take increased steps, as we have until now.
We’ve had three updated guidances of what you can do if you’re fully vaccinated, and we look forward to more as more and more people get vaccinated. But I don’t think this — this virus has tricked us before, so I would like to sort of watch and see how it goes before making further estimations of what happens in a couple of months.
MR. ZIENTS: Good. Next question.
MODERATOR: Last question. Let’s go to Meg Tirrell at CNBC.
Q Well, thanks so much. I just wanted to follow up on what the administration is doing to counter disinformation — so really stronger on the spectrum of — of hesitancy, but, you know, Peter Hotez wrote an editorial in “Nature,” suggesting that the highest levels of government have to take direct, even confrontational, approaches with Russia and move to dismantle anti-vaccine groups in the United States. So, really going beyond counter-messaging from the global health community and pressure on social media companies.
I just wondered what the administration’s, sort of, stance is on — on stronger actions like that against specific disinformation, not just, sort of, hesitancy in general.
MR. ZIENTS: Dr. Murthy, do you want to talk about just positive measures on information and anything you want to say about combating disinformation?
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Sure, well — well, thank you for that question. I mean, that is such an important issue and — and we are certainly focused on it in several ways. But the two that I’ll mention is: We recognize that misinformation and disinformation thrive in the absence of accurate information.
So, one of our strategies is to put as much accurate information out there as possible with trusted voices — not only the people from government, but also reputable medical sources and experts in communities.
But we are also working closely with these social media companies and other platforms to push them, also, and partner with them on rooting out active disinformation campaigns. You know, I said at the top of this — top of this presser that it is all of our responsibilities to step up and to help address this crisis and get people vaccinated.
And I specifically mentioned that — that we need social media companies and platforms to not only put out accurate information, but to root out both blatant and subtle disinformation that’s on their sites.
I think that they have work to do. We are certainly here to partner with them to get the job done. But clearly, you know, we still have way too much disinformation spreading on those sites. And it presents a clear and present danger, I believe, to people who need to be protected from COVID and who could potentially get vaccinated.
MR. ZIENTS: I want to thank everybody for joining today, and we look forward to next week’s briefings.
11:42 A.M. EDT
To view the COVID Press Briefing slides, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/COVID-Press-Briefing_30April2021_for-transcript.pdf