Jul 26, 2022

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 7/25/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 7/25/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsKarine Jean-Pierre White House Press Briefing TranscriptsPress Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 7/25/22 Transcript

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha 7/25/22. Read the transcript here.

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Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:00)
Good afternoon, everybody.

Speaker 1: (00:01)
Good afternoon.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:05)
Okay. Today, as you saw during his meeting with CEOs and labor leaders, to discuss the importance of passing the Chips act, the President is doing quite well and continues to be engaged in the important work in front of him. You might have heard a little hoarseness in his voice, which Dr. O’Connor mentioned is one of the few residual symptoms remaining, but I can tell you he was excited to discuss the issue and was also excited to take some questions from you guys today. As you know, Dr. O’Connor provided another update on President Biden’s health, indicating that he is doing quite well, which you were able to see for yourself just now. And he continues to respond well to Paxlovid after his fourth day of treatment last night.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (00:54)
As we have said, almost everyone is going to get COVID. And because of the hard work we have done, since day one, turning around the disjointed COVID response we inherited, we have the tools to ensure that people can go about their daily life and work. The president is fully vaccinated, twice boosted, and is taking Paxlovid. His current health speaks to how Americans should avail themselves of boosters and treatments. I’m going to hand it over now to Dr. Jha, who has some updates. I don’t want to get ahead of him on COVID and the administration’s effort to aggressively combat monkeypox and protect communities from the virus/ he’s going to have an opening. We’re going to keep him for 15, 20 minutes to take your questions. And then I know there are other topics that you all want to touch on and then we’ll continue with the briefing. All right, go ahead, Dr. Jha.

Dr. Jha: (01:50)
Thank you. All right. Good afternoon, everybody. So I’m pleased to be with you again today. As Karine mentioned, the President continues to do well. He was feeling good this weekend. He continues to improve. And before I open up to questions, and again, you all had a chance to see him. Many of you had a chance to ask him questions. I want to give you an update on both COVID-19 and monkeypox. So let’s talk a little bit about COVID. I want to start by emphasizing the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations as we face BA five. Approximately 400 Americans are still dying every day, which while much better than it was when the President took office is still too many. Still too high. Particularly because we can now prevent most of these deaths. Our existing vaccines continue to provide robust protection against serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Dr. Jha: (02:45)
And because protection wanes over time, it is crucial for people to get a booster to stay up to date. Most deaths are happening in people who are not up to date on their vaccines. Let me repeat that. Most deaths are happening in people who are not up to date with their vaccines and it is critical that people get out and get vaccinated. As I’ve said before, and I will say again, if you’re over 50 or moderately or severely immunocompromised, but if you’re over 50 and haven’t gotten a vaccine this year, in the year 2022, you should get one right away. I would not wait.

Dr. Jha: (03:24)
Now, looking ahead, we know this virus is constantly evolving and we can’t be complacent. And we are in the much better situation that we are in today because we have been aggressive and forward leaning in our approach. And we will continue doing that. And to that end, tomorrow, we will be hosting the White House summit on the future of COVID-19 vaccines. There’s a lot of work happening inside the US government and in private industry on the true next generation of COVID-19 vaccines. And the summit will feature some of the cutting edge work being done by US government scientists, scientists in the private sector, companies, American companies who are working on these issues. This summit is an opportunity to bring people together to showcase the science that is already happening, to highlight the work of this administration and what it is doing to bring about these advances for the American people.

Dr. Jha: (04:22)
Now, I want to take a few minutes to talk about monkeypox because this I know also has been on people’s minds and we all saw over the weekend that the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern. So let me give you a quick update. The declaration by Dr. Tedros of the PHEIC, the public health emergency of international concern was a call to action to the world community to stop the spread of this virus. The international community must work together to protect individuals that have been impacted by monkeypox and those most at risk of contracting the virus. WHO’s declaration will allow the United States and other partners to better collaborate, to share data and to get critical information out to high risk communities.

Dr. Jha: (05:08)
Here at home, since the earliest days of this outbreak in the US in mid-May, the Biden administration has deployed a robust, comprehensive strategy to combat monkeypox. Our strategy has four key pillars, and I want to go through them. First is to dramatically scale up procurement, production and distribution of vaccines. Second is to significantly expand access to testing. Third is to significantly expand access to treatments. And fourth is outreach to communities most affected by the virus. We have been working around the clock to ramp up our response and to make important progress in short order. To date, we have distributed more than 300,000 vaccines to jurisdictions around the country. We have procured more vaccines than any other country in the world. Probably more than every other country in the world combined. FDA is working quickly to finalize the approval of nearly 800,000 additional doses and we are getting ready to ship these doses to jurisdictions once FDA has finally approved them.

Dr. Jha: (06:18)
We have 1.3 million doses of TPOX, the treatment for smallpox, it can also be used for monkeypox, in our stock pot, and we are working day and night to make access to that treatment easier for providers around the country. When the first case of monkeypox was confirmed the United States, we had the capacity to do 6,000 tests per week, much higher than demand, but we knew that testing at the time wasn’t as convenient for providers as it needed to be. So the CDC immediately started working with five of the biggest commercial labs to get monkeypox testing going online so doctors can use their existing partnerships with commercial labs. Today because of that work, there is capacity to do 80,000 tests per week, and we are continuing to do extensive outreach to providers to make testing easier.

Dr. Jha: (07:09)
Finally, we’ve been working on the ground with community health partners, members of the LGBT community and others to ensure that we are getting out good information, that we are addressing concerns that they have, we are listening to their concerns. And finally, we want to make sure that all Americans understand that we are continuing to take this virus seriously. We’re going to continue working on increasing access to testing, vaccines and treatments and making sure that Americans understand what risks and challenges this virus faces and what the administration is doing to respond to it.

Dr. Jha: (07:50)
All right, let me finally finish up by saying, you’ve heard a lot of talk this weekend from the department of health and human services about what it is planning to do. You heard Secretary Becerra today talk about the importance of this virus and the government’s response. We are committed to not only continue to be aggressive, but to continue to ramp up our response to this virus and protect communities in the United States that have been most affected by monkeypox. Let me stop and take questions. I think I have about 15 minutes or so and KJP, I’ll let you drive the question taking.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (08:24)
Okay. All right, go ahead.

Speaker 2: (08:26)
Dr. Jha, the president just indicated that he hopes to potentially be able to return back to the West Wing later this week. Can you walk us through what the protocol would be for him to do that? I think day zero was Thursday. We’re at day four, is this a negative test tomorrow, or are there additional precautions that Dr. O’Connor may want to evaluate before doing that?

Dr. Jha: (08:44)
Yeah, it’s a great question. So the CDC guidance on this is very clear. Five days of isolation. Today is as you said, day four. So tomorrow will be day five. Once he has a negative test after day five, he can end his isolation. CDC guidance suggests that he wear a mask when he’s around others. The President’s going to follow CDC guidance.

Speaker 2: (09:07)
And those of us who have been vaccinated, but may have also had COVID-19, there’s often the extra immunity that comes with that. But given what we now know, based on what Dr. Connor said over the weekend, that this appears to be the BA five variant, does that affect what is typically a 90 day window as we understand it where you have that enhanced immunity? Are there any signs early on that BA five, he’ll be less likely to have that window?

Dr. Jha: (09:30)
It’s a really good question. What we know is that it is true that in the past with previous variants, we used to say that if you got infected, you had about a 90 day warranty. And that wasn’t a warranty ironclad, but high likelihood that you weren’t going to get reinfected within 90 days. What we know because BA five is so immune evasive, that we have seen, lots of people get reinfected within 90 days. If you got infected with a BA two or a BA one, getting reinfected with BA five within 90 days is very common. The duration of protection from BA five, which you’re asking about, we just don’t have any data. We don’t know. So we’re going to track that very closely. Obviously the President will continue, the good news here is the President’s vaccinated, boosted. We will continue to kind of make sure that he is up to date on his vaccines as time goes on, but we don’t have any data that I know of on duration of protection after BA five infection.

Speaker 3: (10:22)
CDC guidance is also not to travel for 10 days. Does that mean the President won’t travel until those 10 days are up?

Dr. Jha: (10:29)
I don’t know the details of the President’s schedule. What I will say is that President plans to follow the CDC guidelines as we have. And right now we’re focused on making sure, obviously, the president is isolated and he will not leave isolation until his test is negative.

Speaker 3: (10:44)
Do you have plans to see him in person before his fifth day is up? To treat him in person? To-

Dr. Jha: (10:51)
Do I personally? No, I’ve been speaking to the president on a regular basis, sometimes on phone, sometimes by FaceTime. Dr. O’Connor sees him. Obviously we want to limit the number of contacts. And so to protect others and so the footprint around the President has been small and really limited to the most essential people who need to see him.

Speaker 4: (11:11)
Thank you, Dr. Jha. What is the window that you’ll be watching to see if there is potential for relapse? Given the present has take in Paxlovid and we have seen that happening with other people.

Dr. Jha: (11:21)
That’s a really good question. Rebound again, I think I brought this up last week. The clinical data suggests that between five and 8% of people have rebound. And that happens sometimes as early as three or four days. Sometimes can be a little longer. Obviously the president is monitored on a ongoing basis. He’s around people. He has a personal physician who sees him on a regular basis. So we will continue monitoring the … I was going to say the patient, which is true, but the President on an ongoing basis.

Speaker 4: (11:53)
And one question on monkeypox, given the limited testing early on, how many more cases do you think there actually are right now in the United States than what we know about?

Dr. Jha: (12:02)
Yeah. So I would say, first of all, in terms of testing, we had 6,000 tests available per week. Works out to about eight, 900 tests a day. I don’t think testing capacity has been a major limitation. One of the challenges has been that a lot of providers have found it difficult to actually order the tests. That’s one of the reasons we brought in the national labs because physicians are very comfortable using national labs. Obviously we want to continue working on making sure testing is more and more widely available so that we’re tracking every case and identifying every case. I don’t have a number of how many cases, further cases, are out there. But I do expect by the way that as all these national labs now come online, as they have over the last week, would not be surprised if we see an increase in cases as testing becomes more robust. That’s a very normal part of any outbreak response is that as testing ramps up, you tend to see an increase in cases because people can identify.

Speaker 4: (12:56)
I guess the number is significantly higher than what we know right now?

Dr. Jha: (12:59)
It’s very hard for me to make guesses on what the number is. And I think the goal is to make testing easy, widespread available so that people can order those tests.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (13:09)
I’m just going to jump around. Go ahead.

Speaker 5: (13:10)
Just on the global response to monkeypox. As we know, viruses don’t respect the borders, what is the US able, willing, prepared to do to address that? Especially since this affects communities that are often stigmatized, left out of public health interventions. And then I have a follow up Trump question for you Karine.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (13:28)
I could take it once. Dr. Jha-

Dr. Jha: (13:30)
Yeah. So we have had a very global, very strong engagement in the global community on monkeypox for years. We have worked with multiple countries on the African continent where most of the disease has been endemic in the past. We continue to have strong partnerships with multiple countries around building up laboratory capacity, that same testing capacity we’re talking about here in the United States. It’s really essential that other countries have that as well. We’re continuing that work. This outbreak obviously now is in many, many other countries as well. And so we’re in constant conversations with our European colleagues, with colleagues in other parts of the world. I think this public health emergency declaration will also further galvanize global response. I’ll make a couple more points. The US really, on monkeypox, has been a global leader. We are the major funder of the company that makes the JYNNEOS vaccine. We in fact have had a very large role to make sure that vaccine exists and has come into being. So US global leadership on monkeypox I think is both longstanding and we’re going to continue doing all of those things to make sure this really is a global response.

Speaker 5: (14:39)
[inaudible 00:14:39] deliverables that we might see.

Dr. Jha: (14:40)
Well, so we’re working with countries to … And different countries have different needs, different countries have different technical needs. So we are right now engaged in a lot of both bilateral and multilateral conversations with nations to figure out what help do they need, what kinds of technical and other kinds of expertise can we provide.

Speaker 5: (14:59)

Josh: (14:59)
Thank you. And I have a question for you later. Just one quick, and if you can humor me later with one-

Josh: (15:03)
Thank you. And if I have a question for you later, [inaudible 00:15:02], just one quick, and if you can humor me later with one, I would appreciate it. Very quickly, on staying up to date, it was reported that potentially that eligibility could be lower below age 50. Other countries of doing this, offering a fourth shot for adults. Can you give us an update as to whether you expect that to be the case or your personal reading of the data? Is it necessary for adults who do not have moderate or severe immunocompromised situations under age 50 to get a shot? Many of course have gone now, what would it be? Nine or 10 months since their last shot?

Dr. Jha: (15:32)
Yeah. Great question. Josh, let’s kind of take a step back and understand what we do know about being up to date. For all Americans, it is very, very clear from the evidence, just incontrovertibly clear that if you got fully vaccinated, if you got your two shots, but have not gotten your booster, you need to get that. That is essential. It’s probably the most important message people need to hear is if you’ve not gotten that third shot, it is essential. Whether you’re over 50, or you’re under 50, basically everybody above the age of five needs to have that booster. It just provides a level of protection that is absolutely essential.

Dr. Jha: (16:11)
I think that’s point number one. On point number two is certainly for people over 50, and I know you guys are getting tired of me saying it, but it’s true. And the president is very good evidence for this. It is absolutely essential that if it’s been more than five months since you got your last shot, you absolutely need to get that second booster.

Dr. Jha: (16:27)
On the people under 50 and the second booster, FDA, CDC, I’ve been very clear since this conversation started, these are FDA CDC decisions. They’re constantly looking at the data to try to make a determination of whether the risk outweigh the benefits. Oh, sorry. That benefits outweigh the risks, and that evaluation is ongoing. I don’t have any news report. I don’t know if, and or when the FDA’s going to act on that. What I will say is that these are FDA, CDC decisions, and they’re still looking at that data.

Josh: (16:56)
Last week they were sort of pumping the brakes on that after reporting a couple weeks earlier that it was ramping up. Can you give us a sense of a trajectory? Has anything changed in your [inaudible 00:17:04]?

Dr. Jha: (17:03)
Yeah, I read that report too, and I am not aware of any change in trajectory. What I know is that the FDA scientists are looking at this and trying to make a determination of whether they want to make a change in policy or not.

Speaker 2: (17:14)
Thanks. In an effort to try to really firmly establish the history of what has happened here in the last week. Are you in a position to explain what the testing regimen was for the president prior to his COVID diagnosis?

Dr. Jha: (17:26)
What I will say and what I know is, and again, Corinne, you may have more on this is that the president, there was a regular cadence. As you might imagine, the president travels. The president has different days where he is interacting with different numbers of people. So all of that goes into the regular cadence. The president got tested on a regular basis, but there was not a single cadence that was true every week. It varied based on a lot of other factors as well, based on what was happening with his travel schedule.

Speaker 2: (17:55)
One of the questions that’s been asked, and we’ll have to raise it again, is why the president’s personal physician is not here. Are you familiar with a reason that the president decided not to send his physician here to answer our questions the way that his predecessors have decided to send their physicians here?

Dr. Jha: (18:09)
KJP, I don’t know if you want to start it? I’m happy to give my thoughts, or do you want me to just give my-

Karine Jean-Pierre: (18:13)
No, why don’t you start, and I’ll come in.

Dr. Jha: (18:14)
Yeah. So, look, you’ve heard every day, and from the president’s physician, through his detailed accounting of his assessment, his plan, I have been speaking to both his personal physician, I speak to him every single day at length with the president on an ongoing basis. And the bottom line is the president has had, thankfully, because he has double-vaccinated, double-boosted, he’s had a relatively mild upper respiratory infection. And in that context, we have provided, I think, an extraordinary amount of transparency about his care, when he got tested positive, how he’s done each day, the evolving nature of his symptoms. Is his run nose a little worse? A little bit better?

Dr. Jha: (19:02)
We’ve been very, very open and transparent with all of that data. And what I’m able to do is obviously provide that broader context of how to think about the president’s condition in the context of the broader COVID response that we have. But the president’s physician, I think, has been very, his words have been very clear. And then you’ve heard from him through his letters every single day.

Speaker 2: (19:25)
Forgive me. There’s a history here in this room of president’s physician standing here to take questions, and in parts, because some of your colleagues in the medical profession do have questions. And they’ve asked us to ask those questions about why the president’s doctor ordered him to stop taking Questor and Eliquis. You have done your best to communicate the answer that the president’s physician has given, but are you familiar with the reason why the president decided not to send his doctor out to answer this question specifically?

Dr. Jha: (19:50)
Yeah. What I will say is, again, if you take a look, step back and ask the question, what’s the medical condition that the president has? Yes. He has COVID, which is very dangerous for people who are not vaccinated, not boosted, not taking therapeutics. But that is not the president. The president’s immunity is up-to-date. He’s getting treated in that context. He’s had a, thankfully, and again, continue monitoring the president and hope that it all continues the way it has gone so far, but he’s had, thankfully, a relatively mild respiratory illness. In that context, I think that you’ve been hearing from the president’s physician. You’re hearing from me. That is a lot of information and certainly plenty of information to understand both the president’s condition and the decisions that are being made. I don’t know if you want to add anything further.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (20:38)
I mean, look. Just a couple of things. As you, Steve, mentioned some of our medical colleagues just want to say a couple of things about some notable healthcare professionals who have validated our treatment approach, who have been on networks here in this room, and also who have been in newspapers of some folks here. For example, Dr. Leana Wen from George Washington University. In the Washington Post she said, “The president’s medical team has done all the right things following his diagnosis. The fact that he contracted the Coronavirus doesn’t mean that the vaccines don’t work, rather succeeded because they are keeping him out of the hospital. The United States has had so much success with vaccines and treatments that even when the president gets the virus, it’s business as usual.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Corresponded, “The statistics are very much on his side because of his vaccines and the Paxlovid medication. It’s a different time. When President Trump got COVID, there was no vaccine at that point. So this is an example of how effective the vaccines are, just if you compare those two situations.”

Karine Jean-Pierre: (21:52)
And the reason why I read those two is because we have seen from his doctor that he’s had very mild symptoms, that right now he’s almost completely resolved, and he’s been able to do the work of the American people. And so we, if you go back to on Thursday, when we learned he was positive, we put out a statement. I put out a statement. Then we had a letter from the doctor, and then we kept our commitment on making sure you heard from the doctor himself.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:22)
Look, we are in a different place. This is not 21, 22 months ago. This is not even a year and a half ago. And so this is, we’ve been here almost every day since, not every day since. Every workday since, for about an hour fielding your questions, taking your questions. Your colleagues were able, one of your colleagues right there, was able to ask the president a question and he answered directly. That event that he did lasted about an hour.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (22:49)
So, you’ve had eyes on him. You’ve asked questions. You’ve heard from us. And we’re going to continue to give that information as well.

Speaker 2: (23:00)
Just one last thing, and that’s it for me. Do you foresee a circumstance, Karine, where the person who treats the Commander in Chief of the armed forces will never, or will ever come to this podium?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (23:09)
No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that we’re in a different place with COVID, right? We are able to do the business. He’s able to do the business of the American people. And not just him, other Americans as well, because there are vaccines that are free, because they’re boosters that are free, because there’s Paxlovid, which is an antiviral medication that has helped him really take to the treatment well, really recover very well. You saw him again for your very own eyes. You saw him give a speech at NOBLE that we just played for all of you, which is why we were a little bit behind in starting this. And also during his chips event. And so, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that we are just in a different time with COVID.

Speaker 3: (23:53)
Thanks, Karine. Just to go back to some of the Paxlovid rebound questions, once the president does test negative at some point in the next coming days, how often then will he be tested to determine he stays negative, and that there isn’t the rebound? What would that testing cadence look like?

Dr. Jha: (24:11)
It’s a good question. As you know, he may remain PCR-positive for a long time. We don’t use PCR testing in people who, not just he, everybody who recovers. So we don’t use PCR testing, but in terms of the regular cadence of his antigen testing, that is not something that… I don’t know what the cadence will be. And that’s something that’s going to be decided between him and his physician.

Speaker 3: (24:33)
And you mentioned the 90-day warranty that in previous rounds of COVID and variants people had, and that this one there’s no data because we don’t know it yet. But the president, when he does then test negative, what would your recommendation be in terms of what his protocols would be when he goes back to events? When he goes back to engaging with people in the public? Do you have to go back to assuming that he could get it very soon after this? What would the level of caution have to be for the president, given this particular variant and the transmission of it right now?

Dr. Jha: (25:05)
Yeah, so there’s a lot of hypotheticals, so let me just say what we know. I mean, the expectation is that while BA5 is dominant, anybody who’s gotten, who’s had a BA5 infection should have a relatively high degree of protection against further BA5 infections. That’s, I think, a reasonable assumption, but there’s not a lot of data on that. So we’re obviously going to continue collecting that data.

Dr. Jha: (25:24)
This is a president who has been very clear that he wants to be out among the American people, spending time with people, meeting with people, interacting with people. Once he is cleared and is testing negative, I’m assuming that he will go back to some version of that. As you saw, even while he was infected and still is, I guess, but potentially contagious, he continued working. And I expect him to have a schedule that he goes back to a cadence where he’s again, interacting with people. But the details will obviously vary based on kind of how things go in the days and weeks ahead.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (26:02)
Go ahead, Joey.

Joey: (26:02)
Yeah. Thank you. A related question. Should we expect a scaled back schedule from the president once he tests negative and is in person again? Or is it back to normal very quickly? What should we look for in the coming days after he does test negative and returns in person?

Dr. Jha: (26:22)
Yeah, I’ll give you my, I mean, this is a president who continued working eight, 10 hours a day while he has been infected. He’s just worked a lot. Again, let’s see when he tests negative. My assumption is that he will continue doing well. Obviously, we’re going to continue monitoring him and making sure that that exact, that does happen. And based on all of that, I think we’ll see what his, but he’s got a long agenda. He’s got a lot of work he wants to be doing for the American people. And so, I think there’ll be some negotiation around-

Joey: (26:52)
And it’ll be daily tests after Wednesday if he were to test positive again on Wednesday? I mean, is that going to be an everyday thing or even faster than that, more rapidly than that?

Dr. Jha: (27:03)
I don’t think there’s much value of testing more than once a day. If he tests positive, we’ll continue following CDC guidelines. He’ll get tested again with a regular cadence.

Joey: (27:11)
But it won’t necessarily be daily after that? Right?

Dr. Jha: (27:15)
No, I think it’s a bunch of hypotheticals. I want to make sure he’s, we will make sure he is continuing to feel well. We’ll see what the tests show. And then I think make a decision after that.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (27:22)
A couple more, and then we’ll let the doctor go, okay?

Peter: (27:24)
To follow up on Dr. O’Connor not being here, is this a situation where Dr. O’Connor does not want to come and talk about the president’s health? Or where the president doesn’t want Dr. O’Connor talking about his health?

Dr. Jha: (27:37)
I will tell you, I have spoken both to the president and to Dr. O’Connor on an ongoing basis, and neither of them has expressed a preference on either. Dr. O’Connor has now at any point said he doesn’t want to come. The president has not at any point said he does not want Dr. O’Connor to come. So, I would say neither of those is correct.

Peter: (27:56)
Okay. And you said again today that the president is following the CDC guidelines very strictly. It seems like there are people in the residence taking his photo with no mask on. I was looking at the guidance for COVID-positive people. I don’t see any carve outs for something like that. So, is he really following the CDC guidelines?

Dr. Jha: (28:16)
Yeah. So if you… So, a couple of things. What’s really important is anybody who’s interacted with the president, and it’s been a much smaller footprint, has been socially distanced as much as possible. They’ve all been wearing N-95s. And whenever possible, we’ve done this outside, with windows open.

Peter: (28:36)
But isn’t the guidance for the person with COVID to be wearing an N-95 when there are people around as well?

Dr. Jha: (28:41)
So, look, Peter. I think if you think about the president, he does generally wear a mask when he’s around other people. He sometimes takes the mask off when he’s getting a photo taken. He’s been, most of his interactions with others, he has been wearing a mask. And the bottom line is that everybody around him is fully vaccinated and boosted. And he has been, I think, following CDC guidelines very carefully.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:10)
All right, April, and then the [inaudible 00:29:11] in front of you. [inaudible 00:29:12]

April: (29:12)
Dr. Jha, thank you, Karine. I just want to find out the results of your contact tracing. Do you have any results from that yet?

Dr. Jha: (29:19)
Yeah, I can give you an update as of midday today. I think there were 17 people. Just want to get the number right. 17 people who were identified as potential close contacts. They’ve all of course been notified. They’re all following CDC guidelines. And as of earlier today, none of those 17 people had tested positive.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (29:37)
[inaudible 00:29:37] We’ll take one more.

Speaker 4: (29:39)
Thank you. I wanted to go back to monkeypox and ask what the government’s response is to some of the backlash regarding the messaging and language that could perpetuate homophobia and transphobia like we saw during the HIV epidemic.

Dr. Jha: (29:52)
Are there specific things you’re concerned about? I mean, I think, very clear at this point that the community most affected is the LGBTQ community. This is one of the reasons why I said-

Dr. Jha: (30:03)
Is the LGBTQ community. This is one of the reasons why I said we’ve been deeply engaged with them, both to share information, also to learn more and make sure that everybody’s communicating in a way that’s both scientifically accurate and respectful. Obviously it’s really important that we do not use this moment to propagate homophobic or transphobic messaging, and I think it’s really important that we stick to the sign, stick to the evidence, and do it in a way that’s respectful of people.

Speaker 6: (30:30)
Thank you. Just following up on monkeypox, when will you decide whether it merits declaring a public health emergency and what other factors would you need to look at?

Dr. Jha: (30:42)
Yeah, it’s a good question. This is a decision that’ll be made by Secretary Becerra, Department of Health and Human Services. With any outbreak, that evaluation almost begins day one, people start looking at it and thinking about, when is that appropriate? I think Secretary Becerra will make that decision when he thinks that doing so will help with the response. Obviously, a PHE opens up certain capabilities for the Department of Health and Human Services. I know those are conversations that are ongoing and continue, and that’ll be a decision made by Secretary Becerra.

Speaker 6: (31:14)
And on the monkeypox vaccine, is there consideration of invoking the DPA to produce more of it? And how much do you estimate the US would need total?

Dr. Jha: (31:23)
Yeah, that’s a very good question. Again, what I will say is right now, we have about 760,000, 780, 000 doses that we’re planning on making allocations about in the next few days, pending FDA authorization of course. We’re looking at the company that makes it, we’re looking at their ability to produce more. We’re talking to them about contract manufacturing in the United States and being able to produce more vaccines here. So we’re looking at a whole range of options. Obviously, if other tools that the federal government has at its disposal are helpful, we will not be shy about invoking those tools, but right now we are looking at these sets of factors to see how much more vaccine can we get in the United States.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:07)
All right. Thank you so much.

Dr. Jha: (32:07)
All right. Thank you all for listening and have a good day and I’ll let you back to KJP. Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:12)
Okay. Two things at the top. Peter, are you leaving us so soon?

Peter: (32:20)
I’m so sorry. I’ll be back.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (32:24)
Ugh. So disappointed. Okay. I just have two things at the top and then we’ll get started. Okay. So we are closely monitoring the wildfires raging through Western United States, as well as the extreme heat conditions impacting millions of Americans. The President has also been receiving regular updates. Our hearts go out to the people who have been impacted by these extreme weather conditions, including those who may have lost their homes or businesses to what has become California’s biggest fire so far this summer. More than 2,500 personnel and firefighters are on the ground fighting the fire and FEMA, on Saturday, quickly approved additional grant funding to help California pay for the cost of fighting the fire. Federal agencies are also working with state and local partners to provide clear and accessible information on how people can protect themselves from extreme heat and federal officials are proactively inspecting over 70 high-risk industries in areas under a heat warning or advisory.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (33:33)
As always, we are grateful for the brave and swift work of federal, state, and local responders. It is clear that the impacts of extreme weather are intensifying across the country, which is why President Biden will continue to take bold action to tackle the climate crisis and protect Americans from threats like extreme heat. And tomorrow, the administration will launch heat.gov, a new website that will provide information and tools to assist federal state and local governments in responding to extreme heat. President Biden has made clear that if the Senate is not acting on the climate emergency, he will. In the coming days and weeks, our administration will continue announcing actions to help communities coping with extreme heat, mitigate wildfire risk, and tackle the climate crisis.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (34:26)
One last thing before we start, President Biden is committed to doing everything he can to lower cost for the American people. We have now seen more than five straight weeks of gas prices dropping, and the current drop in gas prices remains one of the fastest declines in over a decade. Gas prices have declined by an average of 66 cents per gallon over the past 41 days. At current prices, the average driver will spend $30 per month less than they would if gas prices stayed at their peak, or $70 per month for a family with two cars. And according to an industry analyst, the most common price at gas stations across the country is now $3.99 per gallon with around 40,000 gas stations across more than 36 states now offering gas at 39.99 per gallon or less. There are now also nine states with average gasoline prices under $4. For Americans looking for a little additional breathing room, as you hear the President say often, these savings truly matter.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:42)
All right. Will, you want to kick us off?

Peter: (35:43)
Sure. Thanks. So medical issues aside, I just wonder, can you give us a better idea of what the President’s return to work will look like? Does he have events that are already scheduled and on hold [inaudible 00:35:53] them person? Is he waiting on announcements that he might get?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (35:56)
So right now, I mean just like Dr. Jha was saying, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals. Right now, the President is still working, he’s working eight plus hours, that is something that he told me personally when we talked last week. You saw him today speaking at the Noble event and also holding an event with CEOs, labor leaders, and his own economic team for about an hour. So he is constantly working, constantly making decisions on behalf of the American people. I don’t have a schedule to lay out for you at this time.

Peter: (36:30)
You can’t tell us if he’s got things he wants to do, but he can’t do because he can’t do them personally?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:34)
I don’t want to get ahead of the President at this time.

Peter: (36:37)
Okay. I have one more on another topic. On Speaker Pelosi and her possible trip to Taiwan. I wonder if the President or anyone at the White House has expressed concerns about that possible trip. And also if the White House has any comment about Republicans who have basically said that they support such a trip because it would be an example of the US standing up to China?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (36:56)
So I’ll say two things. We haven’t seen that the speaker has announced any travel, so I don’t want to get ahead of her own announcement or her own schedule. I’ll say this, the administration routinely provides members of Congress with information and context for potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations. Members of Congress will make their own decisions. I’m not going to get ahead of an announcement or her own schedule. Okay.

Speaker 7: (37:25)
The President said today that we’re not going to be in a recession. Why is he so confident of that?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (37:31)
So if you look at the economic indicators, as the President was laying out, if you look at the labor market. Right now, we are seeing historic unemployment, if you look at low unemployment at 3.6. If you look at the average amount of jobs that have been created, it’s about 400 per month. Those indicators do not show that we are in a recession or even a pre-recession. There is the NBER, the National Bureau of Economic Research that actually I’ve talked about before, and they look at a broad range of data in deciding whether or not there is a recession, and most of the data that they look at right now continues to be strong. Those pieces that I just mentioned, if you look at consumers and how they’re spending, if you look at what businesses and their households are investing, you can continue to see resilience and it’s consistent with a recession.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (38:34)
And even if you look at the state unemployment numbers that we saw last week in 21 states, we saw that unemployment numbers was at 3% or below. And so all of those indicators show us that we’re not in a recession or in a pre-recession at this time.

Speaker 7: (38:56)
But how confident is that assessment, I guess? Is the President leaving it open for the possibility, or is he adamant that there’s not going to be a recession?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (39:05)
Well, I mean it’s not our definition, right? We’re talking about a definition from NBER, which has been around since 1920, which has said back, give you some quotes here. In 2007, the San Francisco Federal Reserve said, journalists often describe a recession as two consecutive quarters of declines in quarterly real inflation adjusted gross domestic product, GDP. The definition used by economists differs. And so again, NBER, they decide what the definition is, and so when you look at the economic indicators, you do not see the job growth, the strong labor market that we’re seeing currently in a recession.

Speaker 7: (39:50)
And then, are there any plans to discuss with the President’s doctor coming out to brief the press, if not on COVID, on his general health conditions? Or in other words, under what circumstances would he come out and talk to the press?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (40:03)
Well, we put out back in November a comprehensive examination that was done by a panel of doctors and we put that out and the doctor, there was no doctor that came out to the podium and take questions, right? We put that out and we took questions in the briefing room. And so look, again, we’re in different stage than we have been currently with COVID. We are not where we were a year and a half, and a lot of that is because of the comprehensive COVID response that the president has had. The fact that he’s able to be fully vaccinated and double boosted, and not just him, we’re talking about Americans across the country, and we are encouraging, we see this moment as a teachable moment, as a moment to really let folks know, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, the time is now, if you haven’t gotten that first or even second booster, the time is now to do that so you can have that extra protection. Okay.

Speaker 2: (41:05)
Quick follow up to that, have you or did Dr. Jha ask Dr. O’Connor to come to the briefing room and they declined? Because Dr. Jha indicated that there was no resistance to doing that.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:15)
So there is no resistance to doing that. The question that was asked, the answer is no to that. We believe that, not even we believe, we know that the President has very mild symptoms. He is managing this, he’s reacting to the treatment very well. This is coming from Dr. O’Connor. And you all have seen him today twice, taking questions from your colleagues. And so he’s able to presume, resume, I should say, work on behalf of the American people as he has been. He’s isolated, he’s following CDC guidelines by being isolated.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (41:58)
But again, this is what’s important about the time that we’re in, we’re able to have the treatment, we’re able to have the boosters, have the vaccine so that people can continue to do the work. And we should be thrilled. We should be thrilled that our President is doing well and is responding well to the treatment and has very mild symptoms, is at a point where his symptoms are pretty much resolved as the President has said.

Speaker 2: (42:28)
I wanted to ask about the President’s comments in this address to Noble. He refers to his predecessor watching the events of January 6th unfold from the private dining room, saying he didn’t have the courage to act. I wonder, this is the most specific and the most forceful we’ve heard President Biden speak about his predecessor’s conduct on January 6th, and I wonder if this is an indication of a change in posture. Would the President bringing this kind of contrast more to the fore in the coming months?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (42:55)
So the President has been, in the past several months, has said that the former president bears responsibility on the insurrection. And I think what you saw today was the President making that comparison. First of all, thanking the law enforcement for what they do, officers for what they do. Remember, he was speaking in front of black law enforcement who are in Orlando, and he wanted to take the time to thank them. Because if you think about it, we ask our law enforcement to go out there and protect our streets. On January 6th in 2020, we asked law enforcement, or they had to protect our democracy. And so, the former president had a choice to make. The choice was, do you stand on the side of our law enforcement or do you stand on the side of a mob? And we know his actions speak for himself, where the former president stood.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (43:52)
I do just want to pull out a little bit of what he said, because this is incredibly powerful, what the President said. So the Capitol Police, the DC Metro Police, and the law enforcement were attacked and assaulted. They were speared, they were sprayed, they were stomped on, they were brutalized, and lives were lost. And after three hours, the defeated former president of the United States watched it happen. As he sat in the comfort of his private dining room next to the Oval Office, brave law enforcement were subjected to medieval hell for three hours.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (44:29)
And so that’s what the President wanted to make sure that he put out there, dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage, face to face with crazed mob that believed the lies of the defeated president. So the former president bears responsibility for that. And also in the speech, I want to add, is that you heard the President also make a contrast with the two senators in Florida. We talk about, you hear politicians talk about how they’re on the side of law enforcement officers, but then…

Karine Jean-Pierre: (45:03)
… How they’re on the side of law enforcement officers. But then you have these two senators in Florida who do the complete opposite of that. A lot of that, if you look at the American Rescue Plan, which no Republican voted for, it had $350 billion to go to states, to really help states with public safety. And so, that’s the contrast the president wanted to make and he wanted to make sure he did that in front of the law enforcement officers who were there.

Speaker 2: (45:28)
Some of the details he’s drawing upon there echo what we have heard in the January 6th committee’s hearings. Has the president also had any sort of briefings from Justice Department officials about the state of any investigations they might be undertaking?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (45:42)
So, as we’ve said many times here, as the president has said, the Department of Justice is an independent agency, especially as it comes to legal decisions and issues. So he leaves that on the Department of Justice. That’s not something that we’re going to comment.

Speaker 2: (46:01)
[inaudible 00:46:01].

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:01)
Again, they are independent when it comes to legal matters and we leave that to them.

Speaker 5: (46:07)
[inaudible 00:46:07] follow up on President Trump?

Speaker X: (46:08)

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:09)
Go ahead. I promise that I would get back to you.

Speaker 5: (46:10)
Yeah. So as you know, the former president is giving a speech tomorrow here in DC, his first public speech in DC, since he left office. I’m just wondering if the White House is tracking that, listening to some of his policy recommendations, especially since, as you know, a lot of Americans might side with the former president and feel a kinship with him or agree with those policy recommendations. Are you guys keeping an eye on it?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (46:34)
So is that something that I’m tracking or we’re tracking here? I don’t know what he’s coming to talk about. I guess we’ll see when he gets here tomorrow.

Speaker 6: (46:42)
Yes. I wanted to ask about the as yet unannounced Pelosi visit to Taiwan. I know the president had said that the “military thinks it’s not a good idea right now”. Can you say exactly what is the fear? What is the concern? What would China potentially do if she did travel there?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:01)
So, again, I don’t have more to say beyond even what the president said last week. I laid out that the administration routinely provides member of Congress with information and context of potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations. But, again, this is a decision for members of Congress to make.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:22)
From what I understand and what I’m sure you all have seen, there’s not been an announcement yet. So I’m not going to get ahead of her own schedule. Go ahead.

Speaker 4: (47:32)
Karine, two questions. One, just following up on what you said about the National Bureau of Economic Research. They also did not declare a recession in 2008 until December. That’s 12 months after the recession had already been in place in the US economy. But based on what the president said earlier, have his economic advisors told him they also don’t think a recession is likely? What is exactly the White House’s definition of a recession?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (47:56)
Again, I’m not going to define it from here. I’m just going to leave it to the NBER, as we have stated, how they define recession.

Speaker 4: (48:06)
Okay. You will declare one until they have declared one. Is that [inaudible 00:48:09]?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:08)
I’m just saying that we’re just not going to define it. We use the indicators that the NBER, the National Bureau of Economic Research, have used. We’ve mentioned that a few times. But going to your question about how sometimes it’s late, look, I think what … Not even I think. The point that we’re trying to make here is that we have a strong labor market, which you don’t normally see in a recession. That is very uncommon to see that. When you see an average of 400,000 jobs created per month, when you see an unemployment at 3.6, which is historical, that does not define a recession.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (48:48)
And so, that’s what we point you to, that’s what we’re looking at as how the economy is currently in this moment. The reason why is because of the work that this president has done, because of the American Rescue Plan and turning back on an economy that was in crisis when he walked in, when 20 million people were collecting unemployment benefit insurance, and now we have historic job creation. And so, that is important. Let’s not forget about the bipartisan infrastructure law as well that has helped create jobs.

Speaker 4: (49:26)
Okay. I just want to be clear, though. So we’re not going to hear the White House say if there is a recession, that there is one, until the National Bureau of Economic Research has declared one.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (49:34)
What I’m saying is that the definition, the technical definition … And Secretary Yellen said this yesterday on Meet the Press, is the National Bureau of Economic Research that looks at a broad range of data in deciding whether or not there is a recession, and most of that data they look at right now continues to be strong. So that’s who we look at. I’m not going to get into a hypothetical right now. We don’t do that. But we’re using that as clearly an indicator. They lay out how they get to that, how they get to that definition.

Speaker 4: (50:13)
Okay. My last one, quickly on Taiwan. Does the house speaker have the president’s blessing to go to Taiwan?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:21)
That’s another hypothetical. I’m not going to get ahead of Speaker Pelosi. Again, I’ve laid out how we have from time to time given advice on the geopolitical situation, on national security issues for potential any trip that a member of Congress takes. I don’t want to get ahead of her. From what I understand, there has not been a trip announced at this time. Okay, [inaudible 00:50:50].

Speaker 3: (50:49)
Thanks, Karine. Just a quick one on COVID funding. Does the White House want to see Democrats put COVID funding into a reconciliation package?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (50:57)
Look, the negotiations right now are happening in Congress. They’ve been leading that process. What I can tell you is that when you look at really the historic nature of reconciliation, when you look at the price, the drug price component, how big pharma, for the past decades, have not really allowed Medicare to negotiate lowering costs and the fight that many congressional members have fought for decades, the fight that this president has had in making sure that we’re able to do that, when this happens, this will mean a lot. This would be a big deal for seniors who are dealing with chronic illnesses, bringing that lowering costs for the American people, and also the ACA provisions.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (51:49)
All of these things are in incredibly important for the American people. And so, that’s going to be our focus. I know that it has support from Democrats in the Senate. And so, we’re going to allow the Senate to move forward with what that’s going to look like.

Speaker 3: (52:07)
When you say it has support, you mean putting COVID funding into this?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:09)
No, meaning like what I just laid out has support from Congress.

Speaker 3: (52:13)
Okay. So there’s no path forward, or there doesn’t seem to be a clear path on getting the funding that you’ve asked for six months [inaudible 00:52:19].

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:19)
Well, let’s talk about that separately. That $22 billion is incredibly important. We continue to have conversation with Congress on getting that done. We need that. The US cannot be behind. We’ve already made difficult decisions on COVID. And so, we are going to continue to have those conversations.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (52:40)
When it comes to reconciliation, we know what that looks like. We know, thus far, what’s going to be in that package, which the president supports and wants to see. We think having the prescription drugs and lowering the cost for seniors, make sure that Medicare is able to be able to have that ability to lower those costs is important. It’s going to mean a lot to a lot of families. This is incredibly personal to the president.

Speaker 3: (53:09)
He’s not pushing to put that [inaudible 00:53:11].

Karine Jean-Pierre: (53:10)
We’re having conversation with Congress about that, about the $22 billion. Right now we’re focusing on what’s in the reconciliation package right now. That is something the president supports. Okay.

Josh: (53:23)
President Biden said he expects to perhaps speak with President Xi this week. I’m wondering if there’s anything you can tell us about what he plans to raise in that call and what topics will or will not dominate that conversation.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (53:35)
So I’m not going to get ahead of the president. I know he just spoke about this. I’m not going to add more to what he said. You’ve heard me say this, you’ve heard us say this before, is that we have kept the lines of communication open with China, having staff-to-staff conversation. The president spoke to, as you know, President Xi back in March. I’m just not going to get ahead of the president or any announcement or confirmation of a call.

Josh: (54:00)
Do you think [inaudible 00:54:01] are going to come up or play a role in that [inaudible 00:54:03]?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (54:02)
I’m not going to lay out the agenda of what potentially would happen on that call.

Josh: (54:07)
Just on the recession thing, and not to belabor the point, but you said that journalists used the phrase technical recession. I mean I have notes from the last few days from Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Fitch all using that phrase. Those aren’t [inaudible 00:54:23] in journalists. And so, I’m wondering is that simply a phrase we won’t hear from the White House? If there’s [inaudible 00:54:30] negative GDP, what we would call it?

Karine Jean-Pierre: (54:31)
So a top official … I’ll give you one. A top official at Goldman Sachs recently said it would be historically unusual for the labor market to be as strong as it is at the present, even at the very onset of a recession. So what we are seeing, if you look at the indicators, if you look at which one of them is the strong labor market, if you look at where the unemployment is nationally, and also in those 21 states that I just laid out, 3% or less, those are historic figures. Those are not what we would call a recession, just according to how it is defined.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:11)
If you look at consumer spending, if you look at what businesses and households are investing in, you continue to see the resilience, and it is consistent. It is not consistent with a recession. And so, that’s what the indicators that we are looking at.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:27)
I will add Brian Deese will be in the briefing room tomorrow. So you guys will all have an opportunity to ask these very same questions of him. He is, as you all know, our National Economic Council. He’s the director of the National Economic Council. So you’ll have the opportunity to ask him these very same questions.

Speaker 8: (55:45)
Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (55:45)
Oh, okay. Well, thank you, guys. See you tomorrow.

Speaker X: (55:49)
Thank you.

Speaker X: (55:49)
[inaudible 00:55:49].

Speaker 9: (55:49)
Do you have any reaction to the Russian foreign minister on African tour? He was in Egypt yesterday, Congo-Brazzaville today, Uganda tomorrow, and …

Karine Jean-Pierre: (56:00)
Yeah, I’ll address that very quickly. So, look, the Russian federation knows its horrific war against Ukraine has caused the majority of the international community to see it as a pariah state. You’ve heard us state this before. Russia has created a global food crisis by preventing grain exports. It’s bombing of the Odessa port is a violation of its own agreements.

Karine Jean-Pierre: (56:25)
Foreign Minister Lavrov, as you just stated, is attempting to engage with countries to try to stem the onslaught of outrage against Russia, especially by misrepresenting Russia’s role in causing a surge in global food insecurity. I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Thank you.

Speaker X: (56:43)
[inaudible 00:56:43].

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