Mar 19, 2021
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris Visit CDC Atlanta Speeches Transcript March 19
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited the CDC in Atlanta, GA on March 19, 2021. Read the transcript of their remarks from the visit here.
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… we think B117 will be the predominant variant in the U.S probably by the end of March of this month. Now, here in region two, I wanted to share you there’s variability in the regions. Region two includes a New York and New Jersey primarily. In region two we see a pattern where this is wild type being replaced by B117 but here in orange, there’s another variant that’s emerging B526, 1526, and why is this important? Because so you see, and it’s actually a pretty substantial proportion now this particular variant is resistant against one of our monoclonals, one of our drugs that we’re using for therapeutics to treat. So right now we’re discussing within the U.S. government, big U.S. government.
Joe Biden: (00:52)
Make it clear it’s the therapeutics, not the vaccine.
Joe Biden: (00:56)
Because these guys are picking that up.
Yeah, that’s right. So it’s a drug, it’s a drug. It’s a drug that’s used early, but even before you go into a hospital, one of these drugs that prevent hospitalization or might prevent death.
Joe Biden: (01:09)
Please understand I wasn’t correcting you. I just know from experience that …
No, thank you.
Dr. Labird: (01:14)
[crosstalk 00:01:14] conflate it.
No, no, thank you very much. So anyway, this 526 is resistant against one of these monoclonal drugs, and we’re going to give recommendations around changing to separate drugs, maybe combination drugs that will be effective against this particular variant. So I want to end there and we can talk more if you have questions, do you have any questions? Okay. Thank you. So let me turn it over to Dr. Labird.
Dr. Labird: (01:43)
Thanks Henry. And let me add my welcome to you President Biden and Vice President Harris for being with us in this historic moment in public health. It is such an honor. This will be in our history forever, so thank you for your presence. We observed early in the pandemic that racial and ethnic minority populations were experiencing a disproportionate burden of COVID-19, not only infection, but also severe illness and death. And so, within initial focus on testing and educating communities about COVID-19 and the mitigation measures, last summer, we funded three national organizations to accelerate the dissemination of prevention messages in communities of color. And if you look at the first slide, the organizations were the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Proceed Incorporated, which is a National Hispanic & Latino serving organization and the CDC foundation, which allowed us to reach historically Black colleges and universities and other academic institutions.
Dr. Labird: (02:58)
These organizations were uniquely situated to connect with other national minority organizations with easy access to local community groups that were trusted, and that were longstanding institutions and African American, Hispanic and Latino and Asian American Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian communities. So by partnering with just three national organizations and tapping into their networks, we were able to reach early on in the pandemic racial and ethnic minority communities in 14 States and you can see that in the second slide. So with the leadership from local organizations, including HBC use, we were able to increase access to testing, help community members understand contact tracing, make available more isolation options, and increase access to health care, particularly through federally qualified community health centers for persons without a regular source of care.
Dr. Labird: (04:04)
These community partners were able to reach persons, if you look at our third slide, they were able to reach persons with underlying medical conditions, essential and frontline workers in addition to healthcare workers, restaurant and grocery store workers, construction workers, farm workers, and they were able to reach immigrants and migrants, and also to be able to engage early on, faith based organizations. So because of the level of community engagement, there was increased language access by translating materials. And we’ve translated our prevention messages into dozens of languages at this point. And also, by using methods and spokespersons who are known and trusted.
Dr. Labird: (04:56)
And then the national organizations and the academic partners were there to ensure that the information was both medically and scientifically sound. I’m sure you’re aware that CDC just announced that we will be awarding $2.25 billion to address COVID-19 health disparities and communities at high risk for infection and severe illness. And the lessons that we’ve learned through these projects can be applied to both enhance and accelerate on reducing these disparities and achieving health equity in underserved populations.
Joe Biden: (05:37)
It is one of the things that caught my attention, I think we talked about this very early on within the first six weeks of the virus becoming aware to everybody and people started to get sick and some of them die. [inaudible 00:05:57] got a call from mayor, a really great guy, a real hard working and fella in Detroit saying to me, “Mr. President, you don’t understand. This is even before,” I wasn’t President then actually, he called me Mr. Vice President. He said, “I don’t think people understand, my community is now about 80% African American and we’re dying and getting sick at a much higher rate than the White community here or any other community.
Joe Biden: (06:28)
And I brought that up initially, before I put together the group that you’re leading and helping lead, and no one wanted to hear it. And I remember we had trouble getting your predecessors to track it, but what you’re doing really makes a difference. It makes a gigantic difference as the Vice President knows as well or better than anybody. It really, really makes a difference, so thank you.
Dr. Labird: (06:56)
Thank you. Dr. Willinsky?
Kamala Harris: (06:57)
Is there questions for us?
Joe Biden: (07:00)
No, but why y’all standing? That’s the first one. You don’t have to stand for us. Why don’t you sit down, for real. Get comfortable. No, they have chairs. That’s the first question, and the second question is why did only one person clap? I don’t know. You know what I mean? [inaudible 00:07:25] do this as the doc knows, you’re all too serious here. We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and we will for a long, long, long time, because I hope this is the beginning of the end of not paying attention to what’s going to come again and again and again, and again. We can build all the walls we want, we can most powerful armies in the world but we cannot stop, we cannot stop these viruses other than be aware of where they are and move quickly on them when we find them.
Joe Biden: (07:59)
And the one thing that I, the reason I am so, so happy to have been able to, anyway, to have doc here is that science is back. All kidding aside. Think about it. For the longest time, not just as it relates to the CDC, but science. Science was viewed as an appendage to anything else we were talking about, but it’s back. And I just want you to have some confidence that not only are the Vice President I and the whole team and the whole COVID team at large committed, but the American people have moved. The American people have moved. This is a bipartisan effort now. Now it isn’t showing itself in the way senators and Congressman vote, but the public, the public, we were talking about it on the airplane. The public in a bipartisan way, when I came up with this $1.9 billion for this whole COVID and the economic relief side of it as well, we were told that it could never pass and we’d never get any help.
Joe Biden: (09:15)
Well, we didn’t get any help in the Senate or the house, but you have 55% of the Republicans in America supporting it. You have 90 something percent of the Democrats, 80 something … The point is the public is thankful to you because it’s about science. That’s what they understand. They understand. And we’re not going back to the old days, even if tomorrow the whole administration changed, I think you’ve changed things. You’ve changed them in a way that are going to make everybody healthier in this country. And when we have a crisis, you’re prepared to meet it because you speak truth and science to power and that is the power. So all the folks listening, I guess you said there’s hundreds if not thousands of people listening.
Joe Biden: (10:03)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There’s an entire generation coming up that is learning from what you’ve done. I don’t just mean learning about how to deal with the virus, learning about it makes a difference to tell the truth, to follow the science and just wherever it takes you and just be honest about it and that’s what you’ve all done. So we owe you a debt of gratitude of all the lives you’ve saved. I carry in my pocket, the doc knows my schedule. On the back of my schedule, I have listed every single day with the exact number of people who have died from COVID the day before. I mean, for cumulative. We’re at 535,217 dead as of yesterday, last night. It’s got to stop, but you’re slowing it, it’s stopping. And it really, really matters. That’s more people that have died, Americans, in all of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined, combined. In a year, in a year.
Joe Biden: (11:21)
And you are the army. You’re the Navy. You’re the Marines. You’re the Coast Guard. I really mean it. This is a war and you are the front line troops. It sounds silly to say it that way, it sounds grand, but think about it. Finally, we got the vaccines, we got the companies together and then they didn’t have the wherewithal to be able to produce all the vaccines. So there’s a thing called the Defense Production Act, as President I’m allowed to enforce it. So I had people saying, “Making that and start making these.” We finally put together, did you ever think you’d see the day because you’ve all been involved in medicine, see two major drug companies cooperate for the good of the country? One come up with a drug and the other say, “Well, we’ll manufacture it for you?” So what you’re doing really, really, really matters. Not only, and I’ll end with this, not only in saving lives, but changing the mindset of the country.
Joe Biden: (12:23)
Changing the mindset of the country and it’s affected everything, not just affected people’s health, it’s affected their attitude. The attitude about what we can do as a country. Everybody thought that I was … they didn’t quite understand when I announced that we had over 100 million shots in less than … You remember when I said, “My goal was to have 100 million shots in people’s arms in the first 100 days as president.” And everybody said, “Oh, yeah right.” Now it’s, “It should have been more. Why didn’t they say more?” You know what I mean? But here’s the point. The point is that it is changing the way we look at a whole range of things. And when I announced it, everybody but the Vice President wondered why I also pointed out that we landed a rover on Mars at the same time, because this is the United States of America for God’s sake. There is nothing, nothing, nothing we cannot do when we do it together and that’s what you’re showing everybody.
Joe Biden: (13:29)
So I came to say thank you. I really mean it. I have a whole lot of nice notes on here about the science, but I came here to say thank you, because you’re not only changing the psyche of the country, you’re saving lives, you’re saving lives but you’re changing the psyche of the country. And this is as I said, I don’t think we’re being a chauvinistic think about our country, but think about it. We’re the only country in the world that is every time we’ve gone into a crisis have come out stronger immediately after the crisis then when we went in before the crisis, think about it. [inaudible 00:14:15] who we are. Closing comment. [inaudible 00:14:20] Xi Jinping in China, I spent more time with him I’m told than any world leader, because he was Vice President and I was Vice President. His President and mine wanted us to get to know one another because it was clear he was going to become the President.
Joe Biden: (14:33)
I traveled 17,000 miles with him in China and in the United States and in Asia generally, and met with him, I guess they tell me 24, 25 hours alone just me and an interpreter and he had an interpreter. And by the way, I handed in all my notes. Minor point. But all kidding aside, he asked me on the Tibetan plateau. [inaudible 00:15:00] said to me, “Can you define America for me?” And I said, “Yeah, in one word,” and I mean it, one word, “possibilities, possibilities.” Which you guys believe in. Possibilities based on science and hard data. And so, I just thank you for not only your intellectual skills, but your heart. Your heart, your determination. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And I shouldn’t have done that because I want to yield to my Vice President whose smarter than I am.
Kamala Harris: (15:37)
Well, there’s not much to add to that, Mr. President.
Joe Biden: (15:39)
I’m so sorry.
Kamala Harris: (15:43)
But I will say that I do believe that this administration with the leadership of our President is without any question about science and everyone here knows before the President was President he was dedicated to science, the moonshot. And my mother was a scientist. The first job I had, little known fact was cleaning pipettes in her lab. I was awful, she fired me. And then there was this moment of global crisis. And the President takes calls with leaders around the world, we talk with people around the world and they have named their centers of disease control after this center of disease control. They put their name of their country and they call it the CDC.
Dr. Labird: (16:33)
Kamala Harris: (16:33)
You are a model for the world around what can be done based on a pursuit of that, which will uplift and improve human condition in life, and you guys do this work around the clock. And so, we are here to say thank you because it’s not easy, you’re making difficult decisions right now, some of the most difficult, but you’re making those decisions based on science, based on hard work and based on a commitment to the public health and therein lies part of the nobility of your work. You do this work on behalf of people you will never meet. On behalf of people who will never know your names because you care about our country and their wellbeing, so we are here to thank you. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (17:24)
Speaker 5: (17:25)
Thank you so very much. Thank you for your visit. Thank you for reinvigorating us. I can promise you as long as this team of people are here, as long as I am here, we will bake into the cake of everything we do our commitment to equity, to science, and to bring back the health for the American people and to keep it back. Thank you very much.
Joe Biden: (17:47)
I don’t have any doubt about that. If you all don’t learn to sit, you’re never to make it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Kamala Harris: (17:57)
Joe Biden: (18:01)
Okay, am I following you?
Speaker 5: (18:02)
I think so.
Joe Biden: (18:02)
All right. Thanks everybody.
Speaker 6: (18:02)
Thank you again.