Biden AGAIN warns press to stay on topic in refusing to answer question on military vaccine mandates
Joe Biden signaled to press again on Wednesday that he won’t answer questions that stray off topic as he refused to answer a question about potential military vaccine mandates at a ‘Buy American’ event in Pennsylvania.
‘I’m talking about Made in America today, that’s all I’m going to talk about,’ Biden said as a member of the media yelled questions at the president when he deplaned Air Force One on Wednesday.
‘Tomorrow I’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about, including COVID,’ he added.
The reporter was questioning if Biden will require vaccines for members of the military.
The clap back came after Biden also snapped at NBC News reporter Kelly O’Donnell on Tuesday when she asked about a new Department of Veterans’ Affairs vaccine mandate during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi at the White House on Monday.
President Joe Biden warned press to keep there questions on topic as he refused to answer a shouted inquiry on whether he would implement a vaccine mandate for all federal employees
Stepping off Air Force One in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Biden said: ‘I’m talking about Made in America today, that’s all I’m going to talk about. Tomorrow I’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about, including COVID’
Biden then toured a Mack Trucks manufacturer in Macungie, Pennsylvania as he plans to reveal a new rule increasing the threshold for a product to be considered ‘Made in America’
Biden is expected to announce Thursday that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19, or undergo regular testing.
He is due to deliver a speech setting out the administration’s next steps in increasing vaccination rates around the country as officials battle the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
During the Tuesday incident, Biden took questions following a meeting with the Iraqi leader on American strategy in the Middle East and the U.S. relationship with Iraq. .
As White House staff began ushering reporters out of the Oval Office, O’Donnell shouted a question about VA Secretary Denis McDonough’s department-wide COVID vaccine mandate for more than 100,000 health care workers.
‘You are such a pain in the neck, but I’m going to answer your question because we’ve known each other so long,’ the president shot back.
O’Donnell retorted, ‘I take that as a compliment, Mr. President,’ earning a chuckle from Biden.
Biden told her the question had ‘nothing to do with Iraq’, but he did end up confirming McDonough’s announcement.
‘Yes. Veteran Affairs is going to in fact require that all docs working in facilities are going to have to be vaccinated,’ Biden said.
The Wednesday comment from Biden came after Biden called journalist Kelly O’Donnell a ‘pain in the neck’ when she asked about the VA mandating vaccines following the president’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
On Wednesday, Biden wanted to keep the question on track and didn’t answer when asked whether the VA mandate would be expanded to all employees working for the federal government.
He then went to a Mack Trucks manufacturing facility to tour before remarks on increasing the threshold for products to be considered ‘Made in America.’
On Tuesday, Biden said mandatory vaccination was ‘under consideration’ for all federal workers.
Officials insist a final decision has not yet been taken but Dr Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, said the signs were clear.
‘I think we are seeing these trial balloons going up from the White House that this is coming,’ he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has already announced it will require frontline health care workers to be vaccinated over the course of the next two months.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jeanne-Pierre said vaccination requirements could vary from department to department withing the government.
Biden said Tuesday mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for federal workers were ‘under consideration’ during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, VA
He denied that changing official advice was causing confusion and instead said it was the unvaccinated who were to blame for rising levels of infection
‘Our goal as a federal employer is to keep our employee safe and to also save lives – that is the number one goal that we have here,’ she told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Pennsylvania.
‘While no decision has been finalized I will say that the attestation of vaccination for federal employees is one option under strong consideration… which means confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols, like mandator mask as wearing masks even in communities not with high or substantial spread, and regular testing.’
She was speaking a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should go back to wearing masks indoors in regions where infections were on the rise.
The moves illustrate how far the nation is from the ‘summer of freedom’ that Biden promised just last month.
Redlener said the ‘retrograde’ steps reflected how scientists were reacting to new data that showed the danger of the Delta variant.
‘Predicting what is going to come next, even a month from now, is very hard,’ he said.
Another possible option might be ‘heath passes,’ which are being used in some parts of Europe to offer proof of vaccination and allow people to gather.
In an interview with CNN, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky did not rule out the idea.
‘I think some communities are doing that,’ she said. ;And that may very well be a path forward.’
However, she warned they may offer a false sense of security if, as new evidence appears to show, asymptomatic, vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant.
The Delta variant is blamed for surging numbers of COVID-19 infections in the U.S., triggering a range of new measures to halt its spread
Biden was asked about mandatory vaccinations for federal employees during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
‘That’s under consideration right now,’ he said, ‘but if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.’
He added that masking and vaccination were the best way to avoid a repeat of the lockdowns the country endured last year.
‘The more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation the more we have to be worried and concerned,’ he said.
‘And the only thing we know for sure, if those other 100 million people got vaccinated we’d be in a very different world.’
In the meantime the White House released a statement in which Biden said he would be laying out the ‘next steps’ in getting more Americans vaccinated on Thursday.
‘By following the science, and by doing our part by getting vaccinated, America can beat COVID,’ he said.
‘In the meantime, more vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas most impacted by the Delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020.’
But officials know that vaccine mandates come with a risk.
A day earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: ‘The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local, trusted voices.’
On Tuesday, as the CDC was preparing to issue its guidance, Psaki said vaccinated people should wear masks indoors to protect their loved one.
‘We’re not saying that wearing a mask is convenient, or people feel like it, but we are telling you that that is the way to protect yourself protect your loved ones and that’s why the CDC is issuing this guidance,’ she said.
The White House is preparing to return to wearing masks again if required by the new federal guidance and rising rates of COVID-19, she added.
Within a matter of hours that was the case.
The new guidance set a threshold for masking at 50 cases per 100,000 people, based on a seven-day rolling average. In Washington the number was over 63 on Tuesday afternoon.
As a result Vice President Kamala Harris’s office told reporters to mask up as they arrived to cover her meeting with Native American leaders to discuss voting rights, and signs were going up in the James Brady Briefing Room informing people they would have to use face coverings even if fully vaccinated.
Critics have accused infectious disease experts of flip-flopping on their guidance.
But Psaki said the Delta variant had upended the scientific thinking since masking requirements were relaxed.
‘That is their job,’ she said.
‘Their job is to look at evolving information, evolving data, an evolving historic pandemic and provide guidance to the American public.’
Although the number of cases is on the rise, officials say vaccination protects against developing severe cases of COVID-19 and is saving lives
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the guidance was changing as the position on the ground was changing and scientists understood more about the virus and the pandemi
At the White House, that would mean officials preparing to follow the new CDC guidelines and to monitor conditions that may require masking.
‘First, we will, of course, be abiding by every aspect of the CDC guidelines on masking that they provide this afternoon,’ she said.
‘And that does mean, as you conveyed, that we will be looking at the rates in different areas where the president may visit and also the rates as they if they move in Washington, D.C. and we will apply guidance accordingly.’
Psaki faced repeated questions during the daily briefing about whether President Biden had been too quick to declare a ‘summer of freedom’ last month as the country faces setbacks in the fight against COVID-19.
She insisted the responsible thing to do was to keep updating guidance as conditions changed.
‘We’re at war, we continue to be at war with a virus and evolving pandemic,’ she said.
‘Our responsibility here is to always leave with the science, and always lead with the advice of health and medical experts, and we’re going to continue to provide information to all of you about how to protect yourself and save your lives.’
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But ‘breakthrough’ infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people.