Friday, 22 January 2021

Joe Biden promises a 'wartime effort' to beat Covid as he unveils plan for a million vaccinations a day - before it emerges his target is barely 10 PER CENT more than what Trump had already achieved

 President Joe Biden on Thursday called for the nation to summon a 'full scale war-time effort' to beat back the coronavirus – but snapped when questioned about the ambition of his new 100 million-shot goal. 

Biden made the revealing comment as he signed new executive orders to speed vaccine delivery and called wearing a mask a patriotic duty, while touting his authority to use federal resources to scale up vaccine delivery. 

When asked by a reporter whether the 100 million-shot goal was sufficient, Biden shot back: 'When I announced it, you all said it’s not possible. Come on, gimme a break man!' 


Later, when pressed on the figure at a White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the figure.

She said the Trump administration was provided 36 million doses and pushed out 17 million shots, or about 500,000 per day.  

'What we are proposing is to double that to about 1 million shots per day. We have outlined this goal and objective in coordination and consultation with our health and medical experts,' she said.

While her numbers add up, what they don't show is that the prior administration was already on a trajectory to boost the number of shots closer to the 1 million number, with shots per day jumping over 800,000 in the last five days before the inauguration, as more vaccine came online and as states and hospitals stepped up their efforts.

If the past week's average trajectory were maintained, total vaccination would reach just short of 97 million in the 100 days since vaccines began on December 21, which is 31 days before Biden's 100 million target. 

Meanwhile, some health experts have said even the 100 million goal may not be sufficient to the challenge. As Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters Thursday, dangerous and fast-spreading mutations of the coronavirus are on the rise in South Africa and Great Britain – with the British strain already here.

Preliminary information is that it could be harder to stop with vaccine and with monoclonal antibody treatments – although Dr. Fauci said the rise of such strains made it even more important for Americans to get vaccinated and stop the spread of the virus. 

Speaking at the White House on his first full day as president, Biden pointed to the 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 so far – more than all of the military forces who died in all of World War II.

'This is a wartime undertaking,' he underscored, as he laid out efforts to deliver 100 million shots into Americans' arms.

'This is a wartime undertaking,' said President Joe Biden as he signed actions to try to beat back COVID-19 Thursday

'This is a wartime undertaking,' said President Joe Biden as he signed actions to try to beat back COVID-19 Thursday

Biden announces executive action on COVID travel requirements
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Daily vaccinations had already spiked in the days leading up to Inauguration Day

More than 16 million people got vaccinated by Inauguration Day. Biden wants 100 million shots distributed by the end of his first 100 days. But some experts say even that goal isn't enough to meet the challenge

More than 16 million people got vaccinated by Inauguration Day. Biden wants 100 million shots distributed by the end of his first 100 days. But some experts say even that goal isn't enough to meet the challenge


'Our national plan launches a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production and protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it,' he said. 'And when I say wartime, people kind of look at me like: wartime? Well as I said last night, 400,000 Americans have died. That's more than have died in all of World War II – 400,000. This is a wartime undertaking,' he added.

Biden borrowed a bit of pageantry from his predecessor, seating himself behind one of the same mini desks of the kind used by President Trump when he would sign executive actions, some more consequential than others – while frequently fielding questions and posting with his signature.

In Biden's case, he used a different black pen for each order, then passing each one to an aide. Flanking him were Vice President Kamala Harris and coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci – a demonstration of his reliance on experts, after clashes between members of President Trump's coronavirus team and controversial advisors.  

Biden brandished a mask and repeated his call for Americans to wear them. 

'I'm asking every American to mask up for the next 100 days,' he said.

'It’s a patriotic act,' he said, lamenting that mask use had become politicized.  

'They’re more important than the vaccine,' which takes time to work, he said.  

He also promised a devotion to science and experts.  

'You’re going to hear a lot more from Dr. Fauci again – not from the president, but from the real genuine experts and scientists,' he said.

The White House also released a 200-page plan outlining its effort. 

The series of executive orders and actions are intended to dramatically expand vaccine production and distribution – to push forward his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

They came after he signed a federal mask mandate meaning that masks are now compulsory on all federal property. A second is set to follow today for all interstate travel including planes, trains and buses. 

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration's policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country.

The plan will see 100 federal vaccination centers in large venues such as convention centers and stadiums and states reimbursed for setting up their own as well.

Some large cities are already setting up the centers, including in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, but 100 federal sites will spread the idea across the country. 


And manufacturers will be ordered under the Defense Production Act to produce vaccine materials, from ingredients to needles, where there are shortages, as well as produce protective equipment such as N95 masks. 

One order would extend masking requirements for interstate travel on trains, buses and planes. 

Biden is also depending on Congress to provide $1.9 trillion for economic relief and COVID-19 response. There are a litany of complaints from states that say they are not getting enough vaccine even as they are being asked to vaccinate a broader swath of Americans. 

And he is ditching the Operation Warp Speed name, replacing it with a 200-page strategy and a new White House COVID coordinator, Jeff Zients. The Trump White House had no directly equivalent figure, with Mike Pence chairing the coronavirus task force.

The new head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned Thursday morning that claims from the Trump administration that vaccines would be in regular pharmacies across the country by mid to late-February were not going to happen.

'Will it be in every pharmacy in this country by that timeline? I don't think so,' she told NBC's Today show.

'And as I said early on, I'm going to tell you the truth here. I don't think late February we're going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country.'

With a paradox of vaccine supply falling well short of demand but doses on the shelves unused in parts of the country - and many Americans ignoring guidance to avoid travel and social contacts - the Biden team wants to establish new vaccination centers across the country.

But the rollout of the existing doses as also been hit by problems. More than 35.9 million doses have been manufactured but just about half - 16.5 million - have been distributed, according to a CDC tracker.   

And in New York City officials were forced to reschedule 23,000 vaccine appointments this week alone. 

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID Tracking Project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university

America's death toll is the highest in the world despite the country accounting for less than five percent of the global population. More than 24.1 million people have been infected since the pandemic began.    

'First we're going to create as many places as possible for people to be vaccinated,' said Bechara Choucair, the new vaccine coordinator, on a call with reporters Wednesday.

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration’s policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country.

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration's policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country. 

The United States recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday with the deaths of 4,409 Americans.

  The United States recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday with the deaths of 4,409 Americans.

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID tracking project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID tracking project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university


The immediate goal is to stand up 100 new vaccination centers in a month, following reports of difficulties of getting vaccines out the door in many states, and the U.S. vaccination rate lagging other countries despite the two major vaccines already in distribution here.

Additional efforts will push vaccines into pharmacies, and expand deployments from the Public Health Service.

The push for 100 million would still fall short of what many experts say is needed to achieve 'herd immunity,' but the administration believes it will greatly slow the spread and start to bring infections down.

'It's an ambitious but achievable goal … but just the start,' said Zients, Biden's new COVID czar on a press call Wednesday.

One order would direct agencies to 'exercise all appropriate authorities' – including the Defense Production Act – 'to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in equipment and supplies needed for the COVID-19 response.' 

Another would boost FEMA reimbursement rates for assisting states with their response. Another order aims to expanding testing supply and boost access to testing – with an aim toward getting people back to work and reopening schools.

Still another would seek to ensure drug studies 'address the needs of diverse populations.' Larger studies already seek to examine the effects on different minority groups. Some localities have already experienced disparities in communities that are getting the vaccine.

An executive order to the Education and Health and Services Departments will direct them to provide guidance on reopening schools 'so state and local officials have metrics to inform decision-making.' The administration wants a majority of schools open in 100 days.  

A new testing board will be tasked with developing a 'clear, unified approach' to testing.

The administration is also planning to provide more information to the public, with regular briefings from public health officials, after the Trump Administration first rolled out and then pulled back coronavirus task force briefings. 

Zients said the team he is overseeing will seek to restore trust with the American people. 


Wednesday marked a year to the day since the first case of the virus was recorded in the United States

 Wednesday marked a year to the day since the first case of the virus was recorded in the United States


 In October, Biden vowed to require masks on airplanes and on interstate transportation, but he did not take that action on Wednesday. The transportation order is expected Thursday, officials said. U.S. airlines, which have been requiring masks without a legal requirement for months, support Biden's planned mandate.

Biden's order Wednesday directs the CDC to 'promptly develop ... a testing plan for the federal workforce,' adding it will be 'based on community transmission metrics and address the populations to be tested, testing types (and) frequency of testing, positive case protocols.

The president said agencies may make exceptions to mask requirements, but must 'require appropriate alternative safeguards.'

The Biden administration must implement new testing requirements for nearly all international air passengers that begin Tuesday, following a CDC order last week. Under the new rules, all U.S.-bound passengers age 2 and over must get negative COVID-19 test results within three calendar days of travel.

Biden's team also announced it would reimpose entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and most of continental Europe after President Donald Trump, in one of his last acts in office, issued an order Monday lifting them effective the same day the new testing rules take effect. 

The strategy got an early boost from Amazon, which said it is offering its colossal operations network and advanced technologies to assist Biden in his vow to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations to Americans in his first 100 days in office.

'We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration´s vaccination efforts,' wrote the CEO of Amazon´s Worldwide Consumer division, Dave Clark, in a letter to Biden. 'Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.'

Amazon said that it has already arranged a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to give vaccines on-site at its facilities for its employees when they become available.

Amazon has more than 800,000 employees in the United States, Clark wrote, most of whom are essential workers who cannot work from home and should be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

But the scale of the COVID epidemic is now so large that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the total of dead Americans could reach 508,000 in less than one month - having only hit 400,000 this week.

Published Wednesday, the 'ensemble' forecast combines 37 independent forecasts of coronavirus deaths over the next four weeks into one projection.

The forecast predicts that between 22,500 and 23,300 deaths from the virus will be reported each week for the next four weeks. For the week ending February 13, the ensemble forecast projects that reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. will be between 17,000 and 29,300.

More than 38,000 Americans died from coronavirus in the first two weeks of 2021, and the numbers only appear to be increasing.  

Health experts said widespread vaccination could help curb the surge of cases, but rollout has been slow. 

In the nation's largest city, New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Wednesday that the city would run out of doses altogether by Friday. 

De Blasio heightened alarm about the city's dire shortage of vaccines and called for something to be done to free up more doses at a press conference on Wednesday.  

At his own press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged shortages around the state and but shifted blame toward the federal government. 

Cuomo said that the state currently has just 145,780 doses remaining and warned that the supply would run out in a maximum of three days.   

Ford Lauderdale: The Inter Miami stadium in the Florida city is being used as a vaccine site. The Biden administration plans to expand such sites across the country

Ford Lauderdale: The Inter Miami stadium in the Florida city is being used as a vaccine site. The Biden administration plans to expand such sites across the country

In line: Drivers wait to get the COVID vaccine in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

In line: Drivers wait to get the COVID vaccine in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Line up at Yankees: New York City's biggest stadium is being used to immunize people - but the city faces running out of shots at the same time as other parts of the country have oversupply

Line up at Yankees: New York City's biggest stadium is being used to immunize people - but the city faces running out of shots at the same time as other parts of the country have oversupply

Dodgers: In Los Angeles the parking lot of the baseball team's stadium is being used as a mass vaccination site

Dodgers: In Los Angeles the parking lot of the baseball team's stadium is being used as a mass vaccination site

Staff and volunteers distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people as they remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood. The Forum is one of five mass-vaccination sites that opened Tuesday in Los Angeles county

Staff and volunteers distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to people as they remain in their vehicles at The Forum in Inglewood. The Forum is one of five mass-vaccination sites that opened Tuesday in Los Angeles county

The Forum in Inglewood began vaccination distribution serving as a COVID-19 vaccination site, while also serving as a COVID-19 testing site. Amazon on Wednesday offered to put its vast operation to work helping President Biden get 100 million Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 in the next 100 days

The Forum in Inglewood began vaccination distribution serving as a COVID-19 vaccination site, while also serving as a COVID-19 testing site. Amazon on Wednesday offered to put its vast operation to work helping President Biden get 100 million Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 in the next 100 days


'What is clear now is we're going to be going from week to week - and you will see a constant pattern of, basically, running out, waiting for the next week's allocation and then starting up again,' he said. 'We're trying to smooth it out, but we're also trying to get it out as fast as possible.'

The seven million New Yorkers currently eligible to receive vaccines are currently facing wait times of three months or more to get appointments. 

Cuomo has projected that it could be six months before all of those currently eligible get their jabs if the federal government doesn't step in and increase supply.  

Just under 908,000 people in the state have received their first doses of the vaccine to date, representing 84 percent of the supply already provided by the federal government, Cuomo said. 

New York City was expected to surpass 500,000 vaccinations on Wednesday, de Blasio said, out of more than 940,800 delivered.  

A new distribution hurdle emerged on Wednesday, he said, when deliveries of 103,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine were delayed. 

'We already were feeling the stress of a shortage of vaccine. Now the situation has been made even worse,' he said. 

The city is aiming to reschedule appointments for the 23,000 people who had theirs canceled this week within the next week, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said. He noted that no second dose appointments were rescheduled, only first doses.   

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