Biden heads to North Carolina; Jill and Fauci in Florida to combat COVID vaccine hesitancy

President Joe Biden heads to North Carolina on Thursday as part of an all-administration effort to combat vaccine hesitancy amid concerns the Delta variant of the disease could cause regional surges in COVID cases. 

His trip is part of a team effort as the White House pushes its ‘month of action’ to get more shots in arms. First lady Jill Biden headed to Florida with Dr. Anthony Fauci to combat declining vaccination rates in that state. The two will visit a drive through vaccine site and one at a hockey arena – with the Tampa Bay Lighting team.  

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually with local community groups and members that are doing the grassroots work to encourage vaccinations.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy  will hold a press call on the administration’s efforts to get young people vaccinated. 

The White House is pushing hard to raise vaccination rates – particularly among younger adults who have a lower one compared to older members of the population. 

Officials are emphasizing the new Delta strain of COVID, which is 60% more contagious, and causing an increased number of coronavirus cases in some Southern and Western states.

The Delta variant is responsible for about one in five COVID cases in the U.S., and its prevalence has doubled in the last two weeks. The variant was first identified in India, where officials are struggling to combat the disease. 

The strain also is likely to cause a stronger case of COVID but the current vaccines are around 90% effective against it.  

Jill Biden arrives at Joint Base Andrews – she’s headed to Florida to combat vaccine hesitancy

Jill Biden will tour a mobile vaccine clinic in Florida with Dr. Anthony Fauci

Jill Biden will tour a mobile vaccine clinic in Florida with Dr. Anthony Fauci

In a video posted to Biden’s social media accounts on Thursday, Fauci warned that younger people are at greater risk of getting infected thanks to the new Delta strain. 

Fauci pointed out the Delta variant is ‘transmitted much more efficiently, which means the chances of getting infected upon exposure is greater.’

‘Anyone who is not vaccinated are most at risk,’ he warned. ‘Younger people are less likely to be vaccinated and that puts the entire cohort of younger people at greater risk.’

He added: ‘The way you stop this Delta variant is to get vaccinated.’

The push comes as the White House has said it will go ahead with its July 4th celebrations even as the administration failed to meet its goal of getting 70% of adults partially vaccinated by Independence Day.

Officials are still urging shots in arms as the holiday – which typically features large gatherings of people to barbeque and watch fireworks – approaches.  

As part of that effort, Biden heads North Carolina, where the vaccination rate is falling week by week, to push for people to get shots in arms.

He’ll visit a mobile vaccination unit and meet with frontline workers and volunteers helping to get people vaccinated at the Green Road Community Center.  

In North Carolina, 55% of adults have had one COVID shot, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, the weekly rate of vaccinations in the state has dropped by 83% since April.  

At the current pace of vaccinations, North Carolina isn’t expected to meet Biden’s goal of 70% of adults vaccinated until November, The Raleigh News & Observer calculated.

Health officials in the state have unveiled a variety of financial incentives to get shots in arms, including a $1 million cash jackpot to be given to four randomly selected North Carolinians who have been vaccinated. 

President Biden will be in North Carolina to combat vaccine hesitancy

President Biden will be in North Carolina to combat vaccine hesitancy 

Of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates, eight are in the South and, four – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming – have yet to partially vaccinate half of those aged 18 and older. 

Daily doses administered have fallen by as much as 90 percent since the spring.

Health officials warn regional surges of COVID cases are possible as the Delta variant gains steam. Those officials also note such outbreaks are avoidable if people get vaccinated.

‘The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate Covid-19,’ Fauci warned at a COVID briefing on Wednesday.

‘There will be local, type of regional outbreaks,’ he noted, saying it was ‘totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated.’  

As of Wednesday, 65.5 percent of adults in the U.S. have received at least an initial dose, and experts say boosting rates in the Southern states will be key to beating back the virus. 

Officials in the Biden administration are on a national tour to as part of their efforts to boost vaccination rates and combat vaccine hesitancy.

Jill Biden was in Mississippi and Tennessee on Tuesday. On Thursday, the first lady will be in Kissimmee and Tampa, Florida, where the Tampa Bay Lighting hockey team will join her in encouraging people to get vaccinated. Only 44 per cent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off the vaccination tour last week, making two Southern stops – in Greenville, South Carolina, and Atlanta.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff was in Chicago on Wednesday.

The push comes after Biden ‘s administration conceded Tuesday that it will fall short of its goal of having partially vaccinated 70 per cent of adult Americans by July 4th – but officials vowed they would ‘crush’ COVID-19 and said they have incentives in the work to raise the vaccination rate.

Officials blamed the missed goal – of having one shot in the arm of 70% of adult Americans – because of the slow vaccination rate among 18-to-26-year-olds.

‘The country has more work to do, particularly with 18-to-26 year-olds. The reality is many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they’ve been less eager to get the shot,’ Jeffrey Zients, the head of the White House COVID response team, said at a press briefing.

‘It’ll take a few extra weeks to get to 70% of all adults with at least one shot with the 18-to-26-year-olds factored in,’ he added.

He also conceded the White House would fall short on Biden’s goal to have 150 million Americans fully vaccinated by Independence Day, coming in a few weeks late.

‘We will hit 160 million Americans fully vaccinated no later than mid July,’ he said.

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