WASHINGTON -- Ninety percent of U.S. adults will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19 and will be able to reach a vaccination site within five miles of where they live, announced President Joe Biden on Monday.
Biden, speaking at the White House hours after the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of the "impending doom" of a possible fourth surge in cases, pressed Americans to continue adhering to coronavirus restrictions.
"The CDC expressed earlier today, this is not a time to lessen our efforts. That’s what she said," Biden said referring to remarks made earlier in the day by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. "We could still see a setback in the vaccination program, and most importantly, if we let our guard down now, we could see a virus getting worse, not better."
Walensky, speaking to reporters on Monday morning during a COVID-19 briefing, said the CDC’s most recent data indicates a 10 percent increase in the seven-day average of new cases compared with the prior seven-day period. The United States is averaging 60,000 new cases per day, she said, adding that hospital admissions also have increased, and the U.S. has seen a 3 percent increase in the seven-day average of deaths to 1,000 deaths per day.
"I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Walensky said. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared."
Biden, announcing his administration’s latest response plans, urged state and local leaders to "maintain and reinstate" masks mandates.
Asked if states should pause reopening efforts given the uptick in cases, Biden told reporters, "yes."
"We’re in a life-and-death race" with the virus and its variants, Biden said.
The president said his administration will more than double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal vaccination program from 17,000 to nearly 40,000 and will provide funding to community organizations to provide transportation to vulnerable populations, including the elderly and disabled.
The president previously directed all states to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1. The majority of states are on track to open up eligibility well before the end of April. So far, 31 states have indicated they will open vaccinations to all adults over the course of the next three weeks.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state will open up vaccines to New Yorkers 30 and older starting Tuesday, and open up vaccines to the remaining eligible adult population of 16 and older starting April 6.
Walensky told reporters Monday that the current "trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe," including Italy and France. Those countries have reinstated lockdowns amid a rapid rise in cases.
Asked what factors were driving the increase in cases, Walensky said: "We know that travel is up, and I just worry that we will see the surges that we saw over the summer and over the winter again."
White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt, speaking at the same briefing, said the U.S. will not pursue creating a national "vaccine passport" that other countries have implemented for people to verify their immunization status. The European Union has announced plans for a passport that would allow residents of member states to travel freely between countries if they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus
Asked about the prospect of a "vaccine passport," Slavitt said the administration did not want to discourage Americans from getting one of three federally approved vaccines.
"We do know that there is a segment of the population that is concerned that the government will play too heavy-handed of a role in monitoring their vaccinations," Slavitt said.