White House COVID response team briefing
The White House COVID response team offers an update on the nation's progress.
in order for transgender rights, For example, why can't we find the same power doesn't have the same power to sign an executive order for the B. R. A. Well, he's the voting rights act. Uh First of all, I would say that in order to make uh change permanent, you need legislation and you need laws passed and the president is looking forward to and eager to sign voting rights legislation into law. There have been ongoing discussions many of you have reported on and he's gonna keep at it. He did sign a voting rights executive order early on in the administration, historic voting rights Uh voting rights uh executive order, which provided which, you know, he wanted to tap into every 30 he had from the federal government to protect people's rights. But certainly making laws permanent will protect them longer term. I know we'll have a longer briefing tomorrow. Thanks so much everyone. Mhm. Dr Belinsky and dr Fauci in a moment. First I want to provide an update on our whole of government response to the pandemic. We remain concerned about the continued rise in cases driven by the delta variant. These cases are concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates. In fact, the seven states with the lowest vaccination rates represent just about 8.5% of the US population, But account for more than 17% of cases and one in three cases nationwide occurred in florida and texas this past week. From the start, we've known that this virus is unpredictable. That's why we spent the last six months preparing for every scenario. As a result, we have the tools we need to manage this most. This. Most importantly the tool that is most important is the highly effective vaccines. We have enough vaccines for every american who wants one, they're free And they're easily accessible within five miles of 90% of where Americans live. And in just six months we've already gotten 165 million Americans fully vaccinated. Including 80% of seniors who are the most vulnerable. But we have much more work to do to put this pandemic behind us. There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated and we need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Each and every shot matters. And last week, the president laid out several areas where we're taking additional steps to get more americans vaccinated. We expanded the tax credit to help small and medium sized businesses provide their employees, paid time off to get themselves and also their families vaccinated. And we're working with school districts and pharmacies to bring vaccines to schools to make it as convenient as possible for students to get vaccinated In the past two weeks, we've seen a 50% increase In the average number of 12-17 year olds getting vaccinated each day. That's a very encouraging uptick. We're also working with states to encourage vaccinations through incentives which have made a difference throughout the vaccination effort. Last week, the president called on states and local governments to use funding they have received, including from the american rescue plan to give $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated Minnesota and new Mexico have already stepped up to answer the president's call. If financial incentives like these help us get more shots and arms, we should use them. But in addition to incentives, it's time to impose some requirements based on the realities of different risks. Unvaccinated individuals pose versus those who have been vaccinated. Last week, the Department of Veteran Affairs announced it will acquire doctors and nurses and other health care workers who provide medical care to our veterans to get vaccinated. This is in lockstep with many healthcare employers around the country who are requiring vaccinations and we'll protect our veterans when they get medical care. At the President's direction. The Department of Defense Is looking into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for the military and to protect the federal workforce, their loved ones in their communities. The president announced that every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Any federal employee who does not a test where is not vaccinated will be required to mask no matter where they work. Get tested once or twice a week, socially distance and generally will not be allowed to travel for work. We're taking steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors. It's simple if you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated and the president has called on all employers around the country to protect their own workforces. And now we're seeing positive momentum across the private sector. The Chamber of Commerce, the National Association Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable of all applauded the actions were taking companies like google walmart and Disney have announced vaccination requirements for their employees, joining hundreds of universities and hospital systems across the country who are implementing similar requirements with these ongoing efforts. There's a strong sense of progress and you see it in the number of shots we're getting into people's arms each day. Over the past few weeks, we've seen a nearly 70% increase in the average number of new people getting vaccinated each and every day. In the last seven days alone, three million Americans have gotten their first shot. That's the highest seven day total since July four. And just today, we hit 70% of adults with at least one shot, Including 90% of seniors with at least one shot. These are significant milestones in our fight against the virus and it's very important to note in the States with the highest case rates. Daily vaccination rates have more than doubled The eight states with the highest current case rates have seen an average increase of 171% in the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks, Louisiana has seen a 302% increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day, Mississippi 250%,, Alabama, 215 And Arkansas 206%. This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend. Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action and that's what it's going to take to get us out of this pandemic With that. Let me turn it over to Dr. Belinsky and Dr. Fauci. Dr. Walensky 1st. Good afternoon. Let's begin with an overview of the data. As of Saturday. CDC reported the seven day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases to be about 72,000 cases per day. This represents an increase of 44% from the prior seven day average and higher than our peak of last summer. The seven day average of hospital admissions is about 60 200 per day. An increase of about 41% from the prior seven day period And seven day average. Daily deaths have also increased to 300 per day. An increase of more than 25% from the previous seven day period. I want to start today by simply stating the obvious while we desperately want to be done with this pandemic COVID-19 is clearly not done with us and so our battle must last a little longer. Many of us have lost loved ones or have been ill ourselves. All of us have given up things in our lives that we enjoy. This is hard, this is heavy, but we are in this together and as we learn more about Covid, we continue to rely on proven ways to protect ourselves our Children and our loved ones. I told you I would give you scientific information as I have it when I have it. Here is what we have learned in the last two weeks about the delta variant. First the delta variant is highly contagious. To put this in perspective. If you get sick with the alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people. If you get sick with the delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people, more than twice as many as the original strain. Second infections with the delta variant result in higher viral loads. This means that those who are infected have a larger burden of virus that they can spread to others. Third, those higher viral loads are seen not just in those who are unvaccinated and infected but also and importantly in the small proportion of those who are vaccinated and become infected. Last week we published data on an outbreak in Barnstable county massachusetts where there were 346 confirmed cases of covid 19 and people who were fully vaccinated During the summer. Some towns and Barnstable County can have up to 240,000 visitors per month. Those with breakthrough infections had viral loads that were similar to people who were infected and unvaccinated. This new finding, combined with data from other outbreak investigations and surveillance studies across the country, was critical in our decision to update our guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. Since those data were released, several other studies have been released over just this past weekend that have corroborated these findings taken together. The delta variant is different from prior strains. I understand this is all frustrating news and I share this frustration. We continue to learn each day from emerging science and use this evidence to update our recommendations because of what we now know about the delta variant and infections and those who are vaccinated. We updated our recommendations including recommending masks in public indoor settings in areas with substantial and high transmission shown in orange and red on this map. It is also the reason we continue to recommend universal indoor masking in K through 12 schools throughout the country so our Children can safely get back to school and safely stay there. In all of this, there is still good news. Our vaccines are working to prevent severe illness. Hospitalizations and death vaccines are providing protection both for individuals and communities across the country. As I have said before, this remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated where the vast majority of spread is in this country is among those who are unvaccinated. I want to be clear while vaccinated people can spread the virus if they get a breakthrough infection, the odds of them getting sick in the first place are far lower than those who are unvaccinated. And in fact places with more vaccination generally have less disease. We can see this on a population level on this slide where we compare case counts and vaccination coverage by state with vaccination coverage on the horizontal axis and case counts on the vertical axis. States with the highest vaccination coverage are the dots furthest to the right on the graph, and states with the highest case counts are the dots closest to the top. Notice that the states that have lower vaccination coverage, those further to the left have higher rates of community transmission, as shown in red and orange. States that have higher vaccination coverage further to the right have lower rates of cases, as shown in yellow. There is a direct correlation with vaccine coverage and case rates and I think it's worth reiterating that public health prevention strategies, including masks, continued to work while you're unvaccinated in the following outbreaks of cases in Barnstable County and in subsequent public health follow up, we saw the power of vaccines and masks over the month of july, there were a total of 934 confirmed cases of covid 19 linked to the outbreak in Barnstable County. With 73% of these infections and people who were vaccinated. There were only seven hospitalizations and no deaths. Our vaccines did exactly what they were supposed to do prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death Furthermore, as cases increased, local public health officials implemented a package of public health prevention strategies, including increased testing, contact tracing an indoor mask wearing and within two weeks test positivity fell from a peak of 15.1% to 4.6%. Public health prevention strategies work. Let me end by reiterating three things you need to know first. Our vaccines are working to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and deck death. And if you are not vaccinated, please protect yourself and get vaccinated. Second masks will protect you and your family. If you are in an area of substantial or high transmission, please wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of your vaccination status. And third, we need to keep our Children safe and in school. Yet everyone in your family over the age of 12 vaccinated and please wear masks in school. Finally, we stand here with you providing science and updated guidance in real time to keep you and your family's safe. Thank you. I'll now turn it over to DR Fauci. Thank you very much. Doctor Wolinski. I'd like to take up on the theme. The doctor Wolinski started with, if I could have the first slide, I'm gonna be spending a couple of minutes addressing two issues that are very much on the attention of people throughout the country and the world. The first is, as Dr walensky mentioned, the real world effectiveness of vaccines in the context of the delta variant and second breakthrough infections. What they mean. And let's discuss them a bit. Next slide, let's look at the real world effectiveness against the delta variant. If you look at the three components of PCR confirmed infection, it's 79% in the UK study. symptomatic infection is 88%. And just as Dr. Walensky mentioned, The vaccines are doing exactly what we're asking them to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital out of serious disease and certainly preventing your death. Just a quick comment on the 79 that may look a bit low. But remember the efficacy of the clinical trials that were published by the trials that gave you something like 94, was against clinically apparent disease. What we're talking about here is just infections. So you would expect it to be a bit lower. This has important implications. When you get into the discussion of what we call breakthrough infections. Next slide now, if you take these data and look at them across multiple countries, but ask the question, what does a full component of a fighter M. RNA provide with regard to protection against Alpha versus Delta? In three separate countries, the data on the left are essentially the data I just showed you Alpha now is in blue and Delta is in red. When you get to Canada you see a similar protection against hospitalization, which is the area a bit to the right in that middle panel compared to symptomatic disease. When you get to Israel, you see what we now know from reports from Israel That you see a diminution at around 64% for confirmed and symptomatic disease. This is likely due to the fact that Israel has started their vaccination program before the other countries. So you're seeing a little bit down the pipe from the beginning. But note again The 93% consistently showing protection against advanced disease. Next slide now, if you ask the question, what about the reduced risk of either symptomatic infection, hospitalization or death? When you compare vaccinated individuals with unvaccinated people? What is the fold reduction when you're in red with unvaccinated versus in blue with full vaccinated as you can see for disease itself, it's an eight full reduction for hospitalization, 25 fold reduction And for death 25 fold reduction. Let's move on now to breakthrough infections. Just a couple of comments, we can pass this slide. Go to the next slide, please. The breakthrough infections we have no vaccine is 100 effective and so you can expect great through infections. So even with a high vaccine effectiveness, most of these infections are going to be asymptomatic or mild and we know that we've already seen that from the experience in massachusetts in provincetown and we see it in all other situations. An important point to bring up is that the greater percentage of people that are vaccinated even with a high degree of protection, the absolute number of breakthrough infections might appear high. That's not the critical number. The critical number is what is the proportion of the vaccinated people who in fact are uh are getting breakthrough infections. And that's the critical one. The bottom line of what we are saying is that next slide get vaccinated. I say that every single time we all say it. The covid vaccines give strong protection against the delta, vary it and it protects you your family and your community. Thank you doctor. Thank you Dr Fauci thank you Doctor Wolinski. As you both stated, it's never been more important to get vaccinated. That's how we stopped the spread of the delta variant and each and every shot matters. And while we work to get more people vaccinated, the federal government is also helping states and communities respond to outbreaks. Since launching our COVID-19 search teams, we've been working directly with 10 states to support their efforts to combat rising cases with federal assistance and support. Last week we reiterated to all governors that we stand ready to help them in meeting this moment whether that be through more testing, increasing treatments, vaccine access and uptake or other states specific needs. For example, in Missouri CDC experts are on the ground providing epidemiology data analysis and other public health support fema. And Missouri is helping to expand ambulance capacity and HHS and fema are helping the state address their hospital needs. We're working with states like north Carolina and mobile vaccination clinics in Tennessee on public health staffing and the administration is doing extensive outreach and steaks like like Wyoming and Arizona to encourage more physicians to use life saving monoclonal antibody treatments, antibody treatments. Those are really effective and we need to deploy them more and more where they're needed. The bottom line is we're doing everything we can to help more americans get vaccinated and to help states fight the spread in their communities with that. Let's take a few questions first question And trying to protect something Jeff. I want to just add one thing. One of the slides was deleted. A technical difficulty that I just like to spend maybe 15 seconds. I think it's really important when we talk it was mistakenly deleted and that's the reason why I skipped by that other slide. When you look at breakthrough infections as I mentioned they're expected and they usually asymptomatic. As of July 26 the CDC received 6,587 reports Of breakthrough infections that resulted in hospitalization or death among 163 fully vaccinated million people. That is a percentage of 0.1% or less. And when you look at the breakthrough cases the percent of breakthrough cases in multiple locations like D. C. And Virginia. The percent ranges from 0.26 2 0.03. So I'm sorry that was left out. The bottom line is they are rare and they rarely result not rarely but unusually result in hospitalization or death. Thanks, Jeff, thank you, Dr Fauci. Okay, first question please please keep your question to one question. We're very limited on time. Jeff Mason, Reuters. Hi, thanks very much Jeff. You said earlier that it was time to do too have requirements with relation to the vaccine. And then you went on to list basically what you said last week about the V. A. And the and the N. D. O. D. Are there more requirements coming? Do you think that there should be more requirements coming? And can you respond broadly to the impression that you are playing down the breakthrough cases? Thank you. Good. Well, I'll take the first part of the question and then I'll turn to Dr Fauci because he just talked about breakthrough cases, Jeff, as you know in the federal government, we've now put forward a strong system that if you're vaccinated you can come back to work as normal. If you're not vaccinated, there are quite strict rules that you need to follow around testing, social distancing and masking the Department of veteran affairs, as you, as you said, is an example of a vaccine requirement for all of their caregivers to our veterans. The president has asked the Department of Defense to look into how they will add covid to the list of mandatory vaccinations for our armed uh forces. How and when they would do that. Uh, we will be looking across the federal government in other areas that could require these types of mandates, if you will for vaccination at the same time. I think it's really encouraging that we're seeing the private sector follow. I mentioned wal mart, Disney and Google all announcing vaccine requirements. And there's dozens of other companies that are doing these types of actions to protect their workers as they come back to work, universities, other health systems. So Jeff, I think you're going to see a continued increase in vaccination requirements as people bring employees back to work. Second question was around breakthrough dr Fauci Yeah, I'm sorry, what was the exact question about breakthrough Jeff? I missed that one. Jeff, this is Jeff science. Jeff Mason was asking, are we down playing in some way the number of breakthrough uh, infections that are happening across the country? No, no, I'm actually not. Uh, Jeff Jeff Mason, that is I um as I mentioned in in the discussion, when you look at the numbers, the total absolute numbers. When you're dealing with a cohort that you're examining, that is a very high percentage of people who are vaccinated or large numbers. By definition, even with a high degree of efficacy, you're gonna see absolute numbers that are high. The critical issue is what is the relative number, the percent that I mentioned. And that's the reason why I apologize. I wanted to interject that slide that was left out to show you the lower percentage of people who are in that category. Next question, please. Cheryl, stolberg new york times. Hi, thanks for doing this call. A lot of americans remain very confused about the recommendations. They don't understand why vaccinated people need to start wearing masks Again, they're confused about what this means for their Children in schools. And I'm wondering if you think that your messaging has been clear enough to the public and what if anything are you going to do to try to address the confusion and um, maybe simplify things for, for ordinary americans out there who don't follow every nuance of the science. Dr Wolinski. Yeah, thank you Cheryl. So maybe I'll start with the Children and say, I think our guidance um, is very clear about what we should be in schools and that is everyone who is in a K through 12 school in the fall should be masked. Everyone across the country. Adults, Children vaccinated or unvaccinated. Everyone should be masked. Um, In terms of the question about guidance for vaccinated people wearing masks, there are two components to what we're trying to do here. One is we're trying to save lives with our vaccines and they're working to do so and that's terrific. Um, what they weren't studied in the clinical trials as to whether they prevent transmission initially they did with Alpha. Unfortunately they no longer do with Delta. The good news is that the vaccines really do work to prevent getting sick. However, for those people who do get sick, we are suggesting um the data suggests that you could potentially transmit and for that reason we are suggesting both vaccinated and unvaccinated in areas of high disease burden, orange or red on the map continue to wear masks so they don't bring disease home or to others who are unvaccinated. I would just add that from day one. The president said we would lead with science and facts and that continues to be the approach and C. D. C. And our other health experts are doing just that leading with science and facts. We never said that this was going to be easy, but the best thing we can do right now is listen to the science and get more people vaccinated and follow the public health recommendations. Next question let's go to ERIN Billups that spectrum. Yeah. Hi thanks so much for taking my question. I was wondering how much of any surveillance is being done to determine the amount of asymptomatic spread experts. I've spoken to say not enough of this is happening. Um also to help people get a sense of how much protection previous covid infections offer. Um that's something I heard a lot of people point to as a reason they don't need to be vaccinated. Is there any data and the number of people infected with delta who had previous covid infections and whether that offered them any protection? Okay. Dr WAlensky first and then Dr Fauci. Great. Yeah. So we have numerous cohort studies that are examining exactly that. So we have several cohorts, tens of thousands of people across the country where some of them are actually doing weekly pcR testing. These are cohorts of essential workers and health care workers. So we can actually examine how much uh diseases occurring in people who might be asymptomatic. That is the best epidemiologic way to study exactly that question. Mhm dr Fauci Yeah. With regard to the second question that if you're dealing with the same variant, if you get infected with an alpha variant or another variant and that you recover from that, you are pretty well protected for a reasonable period of time from reinfection. It isn't perfect but it's it's good protection. You can't doubt that the situation changes when you're dealing with the evolution of a new variant, such as the delta variant and what we are seeing right now that there are reinfections. The protection you get from the original infection still exist somewhat, but re infections occur at a much greater rate among individuals now than we did against the original alfa. So bottom line is when you're dealing with the variant, you don't get the kind of protection that you would have hoped to have gotten from a previous infection regarding the issue of vaccinating people. There's no doubt when you vaccinate someone who has had an original infection and it was recovered, not only do you increase the depth of the of the protection? Not only do you increase the duration but you also in creates the breath of it so that you cover not only the original but the variants. And that's the reason why the recommendation still holds that even though you've been infected previously in the context of variants, it's a good idea to get vaccinated. Anyway, next question. Yes. Rachel cores that stat news. Hi there. I had a question for um Director Belinsky about you know whether the C. D. C. Is tracking um covid 19 booster shots that may be authorized by um physicians. Um We are just thank you for that question Rachel. We are just starting to gather data and get data on uh, and we can discern between people who have gotten 2nd and 3rd shots. We are trying hard to encourage people to report on the safety side if people have taken the initiative to get their third shot again. Not yet recommended. But we have the capacity and are looking at those data right now. Dr Fauci anything to add there. No nothing to add. She said it very well. Next question. All right. We've got to do. Last question. Let's go to Zeke Jp. Thank you all for doing this. I'm just following up on Jeff Mason's question earlier for you, Jeff science. Um, on the uh the additional requirements. Uh It seems simple you're trying to do here is imposed and sort of costs on people who are unvaccinated as a the realistic there. And I sort of get them to roll up their sleeves and get the shot. So why isn't the federal government going further on some of these, you know, whether be proposing mandating vaccination requirements for travel across the federal workforce, for instance, you know, how far is the administration willing to go to sort of turn up the pressure on unvaccinated to actually get shots? Well, Zeke, I think we've, we've taken significant steps here, uh, to, to, to make it difficult, um, to come back to work or more difficult to come back to work if you're not vaccinated. There's so many reasons to get vaccinated that we've talked about to protect yourself and to protect your loved ones. And it's also really straightforward way to return to work. Um, so for all federal employees, the path back to work if you're vaccinated is straightforward. If you're not vaccinated or you're not willing to attest to being vaccinated, then you were doing the right thing to protect the work force, to protect the individual, their family and their colleagues, which is rigorous testing, social distancing and masking. There are mandates at the viva for vaccination for their health care workers, their doctors and their nurses and other health care providers who take care of our veterans. Uh, that's consistent with a lot of health systems across the country and a growing number of health systems that are requiring vaccination for their health care workers who are on the front lines. As I said earlier, the Department of Defense is looking into how and when they'll add covid to the list of mandatory vaccinations for active duty military. At the same time, we will continue to look across the federal government and other areas where requirement requiring vaccines, everyone be vaccinated may make sense, particularly in the health care setting. And we're seeing in the private sector. More and more companies are coming up with systems that are modeled after our system are similar to our system or requiring vaccinations across the board. You're seeing at universities, you're seeing at health systems. So I think that this requiring of individuals to be vaccinated in order to come back to work or to go back to school is a growing trend and makes a lot of sense given that we're gonna beat this pandemic by getting more and more people vaccinated. I want to thank everybody for today. Look forward to the next briefing. Thank you.