Biden touts progress but warns US in 'critical period' as millions remain unvaccinated

Biden touts progress but warns US in 'critical period' as millions remain unvaccinated
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President BidenJoe BidenJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Fill the Eastern District of Virginia  Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted MORE touted the United States’ progress in the pandemic in a Thursday address but cautioned the country is in a “critical period” as millions of Americans remain unvaccinated. 

In his speech, Biden expressed optimism about the momentum the U.S. has made against COVID-19, citing nationwide drops in cases and hospitalizations, but called on businesses to “step up” and back his vaccine requirements.

“My team and I are doing everything we can,” he said. “I'm calling on more businesses to step up. I'm calling more parents to get their children vaccinated, when they are eligible. And I'm asking everyone, everyone who hasn't gotten vaccinated, please get vaccinated. That's how we put this pandemic behind us.”

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Biden specifically cited the 47 percent decline in daily cases and 38 percent drop in hospitalizations in the past six weeks after the highly transmissible delta variant caused surges across the country. 

The number of unvaccinated people also decreased from almost 100 million in July to about 66 million, he said, although noting that's “still unacceptably high.”

“That’s important progress, but ... now's not the time to let up,” he said. “We have a lot more to do. We're in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19.”

Biden called it “essential” to give doses to the unvaccinated and praised vaccine requirements, saying they are “working” and “should not be another issue that divides us.” 

Biden did not take questions after his almost six-minute speech. 

The president’s comments come after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order this week banning all COVID-19 vaccine requirements in his state, which directly conflicts with forthcoming federal regulations.

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Fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida floated the idea of a similar move against mandates, and state agencies have fined localities that require vaccines for government employees.

The Biden administration previously announced its plans to mandate that employers with at least 100 employees must require vaccinations against COVID-19 or weekly tests for the virus. 

The White House responded to the moves in Texas and Florida earlier this week, with White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Buttigieg hits back after parental leave criticism: 'Really strange' Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted MORE accusing the governors of “putting politics ahead of public health.”

Biden also acknowledged in his speech that the administration intends to keep “protecting the vaccinated” through booster shots as it awaits a decision from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on additional doses of vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The federal agencies will also be reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine data for 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks.