CINCINNATI (Reuters) -President Joe Biden pleaded with Americans on Wednesday to get vaccinated, as rising COVID-19 cases threaten to undermine progress against the pandemic and slow the country’s economic rebound.
“Look, it’s real simple. We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten a vaccination. It’s that basic, that simple,” Biden said at a town-hall event in Ohio that was broadcast on CNN.
“Ten thousand people have recently died. Nine thousand nine hundred and fifty of them, thereabouts, are people who hadn’t been vaccinated,” he said.
Biden fielded roughly a dozen questions from Democrats and Republicans about the economy and crime, infrastructure and the filibuster, in a Cincinnati district that Trump won by a heavy margin. The entire audience was vaccinated, the news network noted.
Swiftly rising coronavirus cases across the United States and abroad have fueled fears of a resurgent pandemic and rattled stock markets as the highly contagious Delta variant appears to be taking hold.
Many of the new U.S. outbreaks are in parts of the country where COVID-19 vaccinations have lagged. The White House’s vaccination efforts have met waves of disinformation and skepticism.
Biden expressed optimism that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may approve new vaccines for children under 12 as soon as the end of August, ahead of previous estimates.
“My expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together … is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval,” Biden said.
He also said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would likely issue guidance encouraging children who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus to wear masks in schools.
Biden that the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal he struck last month will eventually get passed because Republicans will stick to the bargain.
The fate of the deal, one of the president’s top priorities, is uncertain in Congress where Democrats hold slim majorities.
“You had up to 20 Republicans sign the letter saying we think we need this deal. We think we need this deal. … I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake your hand, that’s it,” said Biden, a longtime senator.
He said concerns about inflation, as pent-up demand combined with supply-side challenges pushes up prices for consumer goods, were temporary.
“The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be long-term inflation that’s going to get out of hand,” Biden said.
Asked by the host, Don Lemon, why he wanted to protect the filibuster, which requires 60 senators to advance certain bills in Congress, Biden said he thought repealing it would throw the “entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.”
Voter turnout is going to overcome the impact of a wave voting restrictions, Biden seemed to suggest, saying “More people voted last time than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic in history…They’re going to show up again.”
No matter the party, there is only one way to view the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters, he added.
“I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnated, the fact is you can’t look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th” of January, Biden said. “You can’t listen to people who say this was a peaceful march.”
Biden also promised the crowd – to some of the loudest applause of that night – that he would “fix that damn bridge of yours,” a reference to the local Brent Spence bridge that his two predecessors had also pledged without success to repair.
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