President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE on Thursday said that he had personally called a hospital in Pennsylvania to ask them why his friend could not be admitted to the emergency room when she was having difficulty breathing.
While speaking at the Clayco Construction Site in Elk Grove Village, Ill., Biden described his friend's condition, saying, "She was having trouble breathing, had a high fever and could not really catch her breath. And they got her into the hospital, but the waiting room was so crowded, things were so backed up, they couldn’t even get her to be seen initially."
Biden used the anecdote to speak on how hospitals are being overrun throughout the country, but he did not fault health care workers for being unable to immediately treat his friend.
"So, because I knew this person, I called. I called the desk, the receiving nurse, and asked what the situation was and has anyone even — and, by the way, I wasn’t complaining, because they’re getting the living hell kicked out of them, by the way. Doctors and nurses, some of them are just — they’re running dry. And to make a long story short, it took a while because all of the — not all — the vast majority of the emergency rooms and the docs were occupied taking care of COVID patients."
Biden delivered the personal story while speaking in Illinois about the importance of vaccines and vaccine requirements for businesses, referencing the requirements announced previously by the administration, which ordered all businesses with 100 or more employees to require vaccines or weekly testing of their workers.
The requirement's details are still being crafted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The president continued his story by further stressing the situation of hospital overload through his personal encounter with its impact.
"I’ll bet every one of you can name somebody who got sent to the hospital with something other than COVID and couldn’t get it taken care of. How many people do you know — I know — who’ve had to put off elective surgery — surgery they need done — but they couldn’t get a hospital room?" he said. "It didn’t mean they were going to die, in many cases, but some places in the world, that’s happening. You can’t even get to the — do the elective surgery that’s necessary, particularly for a lot of cancer patients."
Questioned by Fox News’ Peter Doocy on Friday about the particular anecdote Biden shared, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight MORE said that Biden told the story to emphasize the ongoing strain on the health care system due to those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“He was expressing that hospitals, frontline workers, nurses, doctors in emergency rooms are still seeing and feeling the impact of the number of people who are unvaccinated who are filling beds in emergency rooms, ICUs,” Psaki said, “And it is preventing in some cases, people who have other illnesses who may be seeking treatment, who may be fearful of a heart attack, other people who might be going to an emergency room, from getting the care that they need."
She disputed Doocy’s assertion that Biden was trying to help his friends “cut the line,” saying that was not his intention and that he was checking on a friend.
At the end of his discussion, the president had encouraged Americans to get vaccinated, if they have not already done so.
"So, look, things are changing, and we can end this," Biden said. "We can end this thing. It’s easy, it’s accessible, and it’s free to get the vaccine."
—Updated at 3:55 p.m.