Biden has no plans for ‘locking the country down’

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President Biden’s Tuesday address to the nation about his administration’s response to the surging number of COVID-19 cases will not precede a return to the widespread lockdowns Americans endured in the early days of the pandemic, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.  

“​This is not a speech about locking the country down,” Psaki told reporters during her regular briefing. “This is a speech outlining and being direct and clear with the American people about the benefits of being vaccinated, the steps we’re going to take to increase access and to increase testing and the risks posed to unvaccinated individuals.”

Later in the briefing, when a reporter began to ask about the potential for a new round of shutdowns, Psaki cut her off by saying: “We have no intention to [do that.]”

The press secretary did say that Biden would issue a “stark warning” to Americans who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 that “unvaccinated individuals will continue to drive hospitalizations and deaths.

Jen Psaki at a White House press briefing.
Psaki told reporters that Biden’s upcoming COVID speech would emphasize the importance of vaccinations.
Pete Marovich/SIPA USA

“That is not trying to scare people, or maybe it is trying to make clear to people in the country what the risks are here of not being vaccinated,” Psaki added.

She also said that Biden would remind those who have been vaccinated that “while vaccinated individuals get COVID due to the highly transmissible nature of Omicron, their cases will likely be mild or asymptomatic.”

While the number of cases continue to grow around the world due to both the highly contagious Omicron variant as well as the remnants of Delta variant, Psaki told reporters that Biden will tell Americans “we’re not in the same place that we were” in March 2020, when then-President Donald Trump announced a national emergency and the vaccine was not yet developed.

However, the press secretary added that Biden would “announce additional steps” meant to combat the virus, though she did not say what those would be.

“I would expect tomorrow you’ll hear more from the President on what we’re going to do more about making vaccines and testing accessible and what the American people can expect over the next couple of months,” she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, has warned that the highly transmissible Omicron variant is causing COVID-19 to spread rapidly around the globe. 

People queue to be tested for COVID-19 in Times Square on December 20, 2021.
Only 65.2 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“It is just raging through the world, really,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And if you look, even here in the United States, you have some regions that start off with a few percent of the isolates that are positive now going up to 30, 40, in some places, 50 percent,” he said. 

Currently, only 65.2 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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