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Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials

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Via Teleconference 

3:04 P.M. EDT

MR. ZIENTS: Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us. In a moment, I’ll turn to Drs. Walensky, Fauci, and Murthy.

I’ll start by discussing the progress we’re making on testing, vaccination, and boosters — three critical parts of the President’s six-point plan to accelerate our path out of the pandemic.

First, testing: In the past few months, testing has increased, particularly at-home testing — a convenient option that came to market earlier this year.

To meet this increased demand, the President’s plan ramps up both the availability of tests and access to free testing. In just a matter of weeks, we’ve made significant progress on both fronts.

In September, at the President’s direction, the federal government invested $2 billion to ensure tests are available to those who need them, and to provide manufacturers with purchase commitments that allow them to ramp up their production.

And this week, we’re making even more progress. On Monday, FDA authorized a new rapid, at-home test from ACON Laboratories, which will bring tens of millions more rapid, at-home tests to the market.

Over the past day, we’ve also received commitments from two manufacturers — Quidel and OraSure — to further expand manufacturing and to speed up their production of rapid tests, taking months off their timelines and adding tens of millions of tests per month to their production capacity.

And, today, we’re making another billion-dollar investment to further mobilize testing manufacturers. This means companies will be able to expand production of tests even further, based on the U.S. government’s commitment to procure an additional 180 million rapid tests over the course of next year, with tens of millions more tests coming to market over the course of the next 30 days.

Thanks to the President’s actions in September, we were on track to double the supply of rapid, at-home tests available on the market each month by early November.

Authorization of the new ACON test on Monday accelerates this pace, and we are now on track to triple the number by early November.

And then today’s billion-dollar investment to further expand testing production puts us on track to quadruple the amount of at-home, rapid tests available for Americans by December.

So that means, we’ll have available supply of 200 million rapid, at-home tests per month starting in December, with supply of tens of millions of additional tests coming on the market across the next few weeks.

At the same time as we increase rapid, at-home testing, we’re increasing access to free testing. Free testing has been central to our COVID response from day one of the administration. And in early September, the President committed to expanding the number of pharmacies in the federal government’s free testing program to 10,000 local pharmacies across the country.

We’re on track to meet that goal in the coming weeks. And, today, we’re doubling our commitment to a total of 20,000 local pharmacies.

That’s 20,000 local pharmacies that will offer free testing through the federal government’s pharmacy program. This represents an eightfold increase from when the President entered office. And that’s on top of the 10,000 other community-based free testing sites in the country, many of which are supported by federal investments in community testing.

So, in total, we will have 30,000 community-based sites in the U.S. where people can walk in and get a free test — absolutely, a free test.

To summarize, we are on track to quadruple the supply of rapid, at-home tests available to Americans by December to more than 200 million a month and to increase the number of places Americans can access free testing in the United States to 30,000 community-based locations.

Together, the steps we’re taking will ensure that every American, no matter their income level or ZIP Code, can access accurate, convenient, and affordable testing.

Second, vaccinations: Vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top priority, including through vaccination requirements.

Last month, the President announced new vaccination requirements that will cover about 100 million Americans.

Tomorrow, the President will travel to Chicago, home of United Airlines, which was an early mover on vaccine requirements.

And in the last few days, we’ve seen American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines all announce new vaccination requirements for their employees.

Vaccination requirements work. New data reinforces that fact each day.

On Monday, New York City reported that 96 percent — 96 percent of its roughly 150,000 fulltime school employees had at least their first shot by the city’s vaccination deadline.

So, from the U.S. military to big and small businesses, to colleges and universities, to healthcare employers, and now the largest school district in the nation: We have seen that vaccination requirements work to dramatically increase vaccination rates.

Third, booster shots: We’re working with states, Tribes, and territories, pharmacies, community health centers, doctors, and other providers to get booster shots in arms.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is reaching out to over 700,000 veterans currently eligible to receive their booster.

And states — including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington — are leveraging support from the federal government to reach underserved communities, including by standing up community vaccination centers and meeting people where they are with mobile clinics.

This work is clearly paying off. We estimate that 4 million Americans have now rolled up their sleeves and gotten a booster shot, including 2 million in the first week and another 2 million in just the last five days.

So, our booster program is not only up and running, but it’s also accelerating. And we’re building on our strong start to get millions of eligible Americans their booster shot.

I’ll close with this: We’ve made tremendous progress over the past eight months, and we are executing well against the President’s six-point plan. We’re on the right track, but we need everyone to do their part.

So, if you’re unvaccinated or if you’re eligible for a booster shot, please go get a shot today. It’s free, safe, and easy.

With that, over to Dr. Walensky.

DR. WALENSKY: Thank you, Jeff. Good afternoon. Let’s begin with an overview of the data.

Our seven-day average is about 97,910 cases per day, which represents a decrease of about 12 percent over the previous week. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 7,400 per day, also a decrease of about 14 percent from last week. And the seven-day average of daily deaths remains fairly constant at 1,400 per day.

Each week, we share with you the science of why vaccination is our most powerful tool against COVID-19. We are committed to making sure that all eligible Americans receive the best protection…

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