MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday. Okay. Today, I wanted to start by providing a brief note on where we are with our battle against the pandemic at home.
First, taking a step back: In December, the percentage of Americans willing to get a shot was in the 30s. We now have 70 percent of adult — almost 70 percent, I should say, of adult Americans who have been vaccinated. That is a positive step forward, and it is an encouraging sign to us that we can still get more people vaccinated.
Where we are today signals we’ve made pretty incredible progress with our vaccination effort. Sixty percent of adult Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80 percent of seniors. Nearly 90 percent of teachers have gotten a shot. Ninety-five percent-plus of physicians have been fully vaccinated.
For the second week in a row, last week the five states with the highest case rates — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and California — had a higher rate of people getting newly vaccinated compared to the national average. Again, this is a positive trend.
And just one more recent proof point: In the reporting period from yesterday, nearly half a million Americans made the decision to get their first shot.
Numbers like this signal to us people are understanding the urgency and importance of getting vaccinated, and rightfully so.
So, as you’ve heard me say in here a number of times, 162-plus million Americans are fully vaccinated. They have a very strong degree of protection against the variants. They are overwhelmingly avoiding severe illness, hospitalization, and, critically important, death. Unvaccinated individuals account for virtually all of the hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.
And data out from the United Kingdom, which has experienced — experiencing its own surge in cases driven by Delta, showed hospitalization rates down 73 percent compared to December, when there were nearly identical case rates but almost no vaccinations. And what that means is the vaccinations are protecting people from hospitalizations in the United Kingdom, which is a positive sign. And deaths are down 93 percent — further proof that getting fully vaccinated is the best thing anyone can do to protect themselves and those around them.
At the same time, we are seeing a significant rise in cases in certain parts of the country and amongst certain populations, and they’re concentrated primarily and overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.
We’re hearing and you all are reporting on stories on those not getting vaccinated. Some of those — like a radio host in Tennessee — are saying from their hospital bed that they plan to be a strong advocate for the vaccine after recovering from severe illness because of COVID. We don’t want it to lea- — we don’t want that to be the breaking point for anyone, but we are seeing that across the country.
And so, again, the reality is: It’s preventable. We welcome people’s questions around the country about vaccines and their efficacy. We’ll be here for people, whatever they want to talk about, as will people in local communities. But I just wanted to provide a quick update with all of your good questions.
Aamer, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Dr. Fauci said yesterday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is under active consideration. I was wondering where do things stand with that conversation.
And then also COVID-related: Considering that the administration is not moving at the moment to lift the restrictions on travel because of the Delta variant, is the administration weighing broader recommendations on telling Americans — and I know there are some places, like the UK — but, “Don’t go”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say, for any of these recommendations, we are always going to be guided by our North Star — and that is the CDC and our health and medical experts.
So, as I said last week, having an active — it would be actually surprising and odd if our health and medical experts were not having active — an active discussion about how to protect — best protect the American people. And there, of course, is an active discussion about a range of steps that can be taken, as there has been from the first day of this administration.
Certainly, the surge in cases among unvaccinated, because of the Delta variant, prompts, you know, even more discussion about what actions can be taken. But we are going to — the CDC looks at data, they look at data across the country, in a range of regions across the country. And if they make an assessment, we will of course be here to follow their guidance.
Q If I may, just one more on tomorrow — I think it’s tomorrow’s visit to the ODNI.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
Q Any — what is the President going there to say, do? Is there any major announcements expected? And how much of this is about also sending a different or contrasting message with the previous President, who sometimes had some comments that were less than flattering about the intelligence community?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me just go back to your last question about the travel restrictions, if you don’t mind —
Q Oh — thank you.
MS. PSAKI: — because I just want to confirm it for those of you. So, given where we are today — and I think you’ve seen this, and those of you who have asked, we’ve confirmed this for — with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons.
The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead.
And to get to the other part of your question, the CDC just advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday, given the surge in cases. They will evaluate and make — and make recommendations based on health data.
To your question about his — the President’s visit to ODNI tomorrow to see the Director of National Intelligence — first woman to lead the intelligence community in history, I’ll just note — yes, I think the President — one, he will go there to receive an update on their work, but also to thank them for their work during what has been, no doubt, a challenging time for members of the intelligence community over the last several years.
He’s someone who believes in the role of the intelligence community, of civil servants. He believes they’re the backbone of our government, and certainly he’ll make that clear. But, you know, I think you can all make the inherent contrast; I don’t think that will be a central part of his message tomorrow.