May 28, 2021
Joe Biden & Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 28
President Joe Biden and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gave remarks on Virginia’s COVID-19 response on May 28, 2021. Read the transcript of the press conference speeches here.
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Governor Northam: (00:00)
Good morning to everybody and welcome to the Sportrock. I don’t know about you all, but this is an exciting day for me, finally, after a long year there is finally a very bright light [inaudible 00:00:18] at the end of this long tunnel. So, thank you all so much for joining us today. I have had the opportunity to tour Sportrock with Lilian and this business started back in 1994 has grown to what we see here today, another site also here in Northern Virginia. 40,000 square feet of just elevated rock climbing opportunities here. As a matter of fact, Mr President, Lilian while she was taking us around, asked Mr President and I if we would like display some of our tactics [inaudible 00:01:03]. And because of time [crosstalk 00:01:03].
President Biden: (01:03)
The only reason.
Governor Northam: (01:03)
I want you to all join me and give a round of applause to the President and First Lady of the United States of America, thank you.
Governor Northam: (01:21)
And it is truly an honor, and I want to also acknowledge that Dr Biden, who is one of my fellow state employees, we are so grateful that you teach here in Virginia at Northern Virginia Community College. So, please welcome the First Lady. As you probably know, there are a number of dignitaries here today, and I’d like to give it my best attempt at recognizing some of them. We have congressman Gerry Connolly. Gerry, thank you for being with us today. My favorite lieutenant governor, congressman Don Beyer, welcome. Senator George Barker I saw in the audience. Senator, good to see you this morning. Senator Adam Evan, thank you very much for your leadership. We have the speaker, the first woman speaker of the house of delegates, speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. Welcome Eileen. And our leader in the house of delegates, Charniele Herring. Charniele, welcome.
Governor Northam: (02:31)
Our mayor, Justin Wilson is here with us today, Justin. We have numerous members of our local council and school board, thank you all so much for being here and your leadership over this past year. And finally, superintendent Greg Hutchings for helping to put all this together, thank you.
Governor Northam: (02:54)
It is also great to see all the students with us today and teachers. They have joined us from schools right here in Alexandria, and I want to tell everybody that this past 14 months have no doubt been a very difficult and unprecedented time for our students, our teachers and school staff. They have literally made sacrifices and they are our heroes, and on behalf of all of us, please thank our teachers, our staff and our students.
Governor Northam: (03:36)
Today we mark a tremendous milestone in our fight against COVID-19. As of 12:01 this morning, for the first time since March 2020, there are no limits on capacity or distancing in Virginia’s restaurants, businesses, offices, or other venues. That’s something that we can all be proud of. We are closer to a more normal life than we have been in the past 14 months, and I don’t know about for you, but for me that feels really good. For this, we can thank the vaccines and the scientists and researchers who developed them. We are now roughly six months into the vaccine rollout, and I am proud to say that 66% of Virginia adults have had their first shot. 54%, more than half of Virginians, are fully vaccinated, which puts us 14th amongst all states, and ahead of other states in the south.
Governor Northam: (04:55)
Those are tremendous numbers and I’m fully confident that Virginia will hit President Biden’s goal of 70% of adults getting their first shot by July the 4th. We can see in real time that the more people get vaccinated, the fewer people get COVID. It is very simple math. Our case counts have been dropping for weeks. Six weeks ago we had an average of over 1600 new cases per day. Today we have an average of fewer than 400 new cases a day. Numbers we haven’t seen since April of 2020. Our daily new infection rate is the ninth lowest in the nation, and third lowest east of the Mississippi. Our hospitalizations and deaths are dropping as well. This is a direct result of people getting vaccinated. I am grateful to every Virginian, including those 12 and older, who have done the right thing and gotten the shot. We are focused on making sure that getting a vaccine is as easy as possible for every Virginian, and where communities are harder hit by the virus, or have more barriers to access, we make extra effort. We want everyone to be able to get the shot.
Governor Northam: (06:29)
We are also just so grateful to President Biden and his administration. We are able to kick off summer enjoying the things that we have always cherished, thanks to your leadership Sir, and focus on increasing production of vaccines getting to the states, and finally getting shots in arms. As governor, I can tell you that having a partner in the White House makes a huge, huge difference. Setting clear goals, as he has done, and supporting us with the resources we need to meet those goals, and as a doctor, I know it also makes a big difference when leadership respects science and follows its lead.
Governor Northam: (07:28)
Finally, this weekend, as you all know, is Memorial Day. Lifting the capacity and distancing restrictions will make a big difference for those businesses relying on holiday travelers. But we cannot forget the purpose of Memorial Day; to honor those military service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. This weekend, please, please take the time to remember them and their sacrifice, and to comfort their families. All of our services members deserve that. Thank you all so much. Jacob.
Speaker 3: (08:17)
It is my honor to introduce President Biden. Welcome to Virginia Mr President, and our First Lady, Dr Jill Biden. Dr Biden, you are no stranger to the city of Alexandria. You have taught here at the community college for many years. We are proud to have both of you here today. My name is Jacob Bosley and I am a high school junior. I want to start by saying thank you to President Biden and governor Northam. Because of the incredible work that has been done by your administrations, doctors, nurses and volunteers all over the country, I am able to be here today, fully vaccinated and without a mask. It feels great, and I am really excited to get back to normal and enjoy my summer vacation.
Speaker 3: (09:23)
When this pandemic started, we all made sacrifices, especially students and young people, and our teachers and school administrators who are owed a debt of gratitude for all they have done for us students this past year. It’s been a long year. For months my brothers and I, my parents, we have masked up and kept our social distance to protect those who we love, and we are going to keep using good common sense, wear a mask in a large crowded area, keep our distance, and wash our hands for 20 seconds, just as Dr Fauci said, and most importantly get vaccinated. I’ve had my second shot and it’s a game changer.
Speaker 3: (10:14)
My school is back open offer in person learning, I’m playing sports and hanging out with my family and friends. With Memorial Day weekend here, I’m excited to go to the pool and go on vacation with my friends and family. Last but not least, I’m also excited to have a normal senior year of high school. This wouldn’t have happened without Americans doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, and it definitely wouldn’t have happened without the strong leadership behind our president, Mr Biden.
Speaker 3: (10:56)
President Biden, it is an honor to welcome you here to the commonwealth of Virginia, and to say thank you.
President Biden: (11:04)
Thank you. [inaudible 00:11:12]
President Biden: (11:13)
I don’t know about you all, but following a governor introducing the president in front of about half the legislature of the national press, when I was a junior in high school, no, it wouldn’t be close. I just want you to remember me when you’re president. When I go by don’t say, “Joe who?” Okay? Promise me?
President Biden: (11:39)
Before I begin, I’d like to say a quick word about an old friend of mine. A quick word about senator John Warner. I had the privilege of serving with John for three decades in the United State senate, and I can say without hesitation he was a man of conscience and a man of honor, and in his life full of honors, the most enduring was his service to the people of Virginia, and we’re going to miss him dearly. And John took chances. I was pleased and stunned when in the middle of my primary John endorsed me for President of the United States. It was how things used to be back in the old days in the United State senate when I first got there. People, that didn’t happen that often, but people would cross the aisle to work with one another. John was a man of great integrity and he’s going to be missed, and Virginia was just fortunate to have him as long as they did.
President Biden: (12:47)
Now, Jacob, I want to thank you for sharing your story, and you pointed out that my wife works for the governor. No wonder she doesn’t pay attention to me when I’m hanging around the governor. But all kidding aside, I’m very proud of the fact that Jill has … Teaching is not what Jill does, teaching is who she is, and she’s done it her whole adult life, and she’s still doing it. I know some people said, “When you’re First Lady, are you going to continue to teach?” She said, “Yes.” But I don’t think she bargained for having to teach online initially. Students, I watched her. She spent more time, four hours a day for about a month, learning how to teach online. So, don’t feel bad about you all having to learn. I watched the teachers have to do it.
President Biden: (13:50)
Anyway, and I just want to say that we’re in a position now, governor Northam, I want to thank you for your welcome to the commonwealth, and I want to thank you for you’re doing to help win the fight against COVID. You’re one of the best governors in the country at taking this on, and you did it from the beginning. And Mayor Wilson, thank you for the passport into the city. I promise I’ll leave in time, but thank you. And congressman Connolly and Beyer, they’re both members of congress, but congressman Connolly got to the congress with a real impediment; he worked for me for years before that on my staff, and everything’s gone downhill since you left, Gerry. Thank you. And I want to thank the speaker as well, and the senate majority leader, as well as thank all of you working so hard for the people here in Northern Virginia.
President Biden: (14:55)
Four months after I took office, we are further along in this fight than anyone thought possible. Let’s remember where we were 129 days ago. When I took office, we were averaging 184,000 cases per day nationwide. Here in Virginia, as the governor pointed out, schools were closed. Main Street had gone quiet here, and in cities all across America. Virginia Tech didn’t play in a ballgame this winter, first time in 28 years, and so many joys of life large and small have been halted by a long dark winter, and today we’ve gone from 184 cases per day nationwide to fewer than 22,000 cases per day. Deaths have dropped by over 85%. Tens of thousands of moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends are still with us today who would otherwise have been lost. This has been true here in Virginia particularly. From 43,000 cases the week before I took office, to fewer than 2800 the past week, a 93% decline.
President Biden: (16:11)
We’ve been able to do it for three reasons. First, we planned and executed a vaccination effort at a scale and speed never before seen here or anywhere in the world. Here in Virginia, that meant $247 million in federal funding for community vaccination sites. Over 360 federally funded national guard members supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. Getting doses to community healthcare centers, a thousand pharmacies all across Virginia, and creating a mass vaccination site in Norfolk, initially run by the federal emergency management agency and the United States Navy in partnership with Virginia.
President Biden: (16:57)
Second reason that we succeeded is governors like governor Northam have been instrumental partners. Leaders in red states and blue states working with businesses, faith leaders, community groups to get it done at a local level. And thirdly, and most crucially, the American people. More than 165 million Americans so far have done their patriotic duty, 165 million, and gotten at least one shot. Americans of every party, every race, creed have come together and rolled up their sleeves, literally, and done their part. Now, 51% of American adults have been fully vaccinated. 75% of seniors fully vaccinated. Leaving nobody behind. Black, white, Hispanic, across the board they’ve been getting their vaccinations.
President Biden: (17:55)
In Virginia, 55%, as the governor said, of all adults are vaccinated. I believe that’s the right number, gov. And look at what that means. We aren’t just saving lives, we’re getting our lives back. Stores and restaurants up and down Main Street are hanging open signs on their front doors, and here in a rock climbing gym we’re greeted by another, and we’re greeting one another with smiles, with our masks off, and I’m about to do this 60 foot wall.
President Biden: (18:28)
I tell you what, I work out every morning, but I said, “I have trouble holding those grips.” And the young man said to me, he said, “The way to work your hands,” he said, “Get a kettle bell, a light one, and just put it under your fingers and work it that way.” Tonight I’m trying. But folks, look, in Norfolk and Fredericksburg, fans are heading back to the minor league ballparks. Pools and parks are opening up across the state. Families are heading down to spend Memorial Day weekend at Virginia Beach, and all over the country we’ve gone from pain and stagnation of a long dark winter, to an economy on the move growing faster than it has in nearly 40 years. From [inaudible 00:19:12] job creation in the months before I took office, to the fastest job creation in the first three months of any administration in American history, and rising wages. Rising wages. As more Americans get vaccinated, the days grow brighter and brighter, but let me be clear; we’re not done yet. We have to reach those who are not vaccinated and make it as easy as possible for them to get protected.
President Biden: (19:41)
I set an ambitious goal of getting 70% of adult Americans at least one shot by July the 4th. Today, just over a month to go, we’re at 62%. 10 states have already reached the 70% milestone. Virginia’s 66, it’s moving closer every day, and continuing on counting on just all the help and continuing this process is really … I think you’re going to get the job done here in Virginia pretty quickly, gov. To 70% and keep sprinting through the finish line is what we’re all about. If we succeed, we can celebrate our independence from the virus together on the 4th of July, as we celebrate our independence as a nation. And the future’s only going to get brighter, because there will be no doubt what America can achieve when we do it together.
President Biden: (20:37)
I know when I ran for office I said I wanted to do three things, one of which was to unite the country. It’s difficult, but this is the first real evidence that we’re able to do it. The American people are more ready to come together, I believe, than the congress and the elected officials are. But we’re getting there. If you aren’t vaccinated yet, it’s never been easier. If convenience is the issue, there are 80,000 locations. Visit vaccine.gov, or text your zip code to 438829, and you’ll find the sites nearest you will pop up immediately. And almost all cases, you don’t need an appointment.
President Biden: (21:22)
If transportation is an issue, I want to thank Lyft and Uber. They’ve come forward and they’ve offered free rides to and from vaccination sites through to July 4th. So, anybody who says they can’t get there, call Lyft or Uber. They’re doing the patriotic thing. They’ll come and pick you up, take you to the vaccination center, wait for you, and take you back to your home, or wherever you emerged from. And if cost is an issue, don’t be concerned. The vaccine is 100% free. And if time is an issue, there are 10,000 sites offering vaccinations without an appointment. 1000 pharmacies in Virginia alone, and the vast majority offer it no appointment, with no appointment required.
President Biden: (22:12)
We’ve made extraordinary progress. Everybody in America should be proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we did it together, but we still have five weeks left to hit our goal, and I know we can do it. Just look at what we’ve done so far. There’s not a single thing, and I’ve been saying this a long time, and I think a lot of the press that are smart as the devil think I’m being naïve, there is nothing we cannot accomplish if we do it together. I really believe that. Nothing. Nothing we’ve ever set our minds to as Americans that we’ve failed at when we’ve done it together. And Virginia, you know you’re doing your part.
President Biden: (22:51)
So, I remember always I’d hear, in the last administration I’d hear when they’d talk about vaccines and we’re going to make great progress, and they’d say there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I was reminded of my generation in the sixties, there was a very raunchy comedian who said, he was talking about the Vietnam war, he said, “Yeah, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a freight train.” Well this time there’s sunlight at the end of the tunnel. There’s real light. There’s real light. And gov, I really mean this, I’m not being political, you’ve done one hell of a job, doc. You’ve done a hell of a job, and it matters. It matters. So I thank you all. God bless you. God protect our troops. And tell me, why aren’t you in school? School off today?
President Biden: (23:41)
All right. Well, anyway, thank you all very much. What grade [inaudible 00:23:43]?
President Biden: (23:43)
Senior. When’s graduation? [inaudible 00:23:43]
President Biden: (23:43)
June 12th. All right. [inaudible 00:23:43] All right.
President Biden: (23:43)
Jill Biden: (23:43)
President Biden: (23:43)
[crosstalk 00:23:43] Appreciate it a lot.
Jill Biden: (23:43)
President Biden: (23:43)
Mr President! Mr President! What’s your real deadline for a deal with republicans on infrastructure? [crosstalk 00:24:55]