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Biden Speaks after CDC Mask Guidance Creates Confusion; Biden Speaks on Vaccines at Home, Sharing 80 Million Doses with Other Countries in Coming Weeks; Biden: By Tomorrow, 60 Percent of All American Adults Will Have Received at Least One Shot; Rocket Fire, Airstrikes Intensify Between Gaza and Israel; Biden to Speak with Israeli P.M. on Violence in Mideast; Congress Notified about U.S. Selling Israel $735 Million in Precision-Guided Weapons Before Violence Began; Mysterious Illness Strikes Again Near White House Entrance. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired May 17, 2021 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I said last week, some people may want to continue to wear a mask even if they are fully vaccinated. That's a decision they can make. Some businesses may want to continue to require wearing masks.
Let's all be kind and respectful to one another as we come out of this pandemic and respect those who want to continue to wear a mask, even if they've been vaccinated.
Above all, let's work together, though, to meet the target, I've said, of 70 percent of adults, all adults, with at least one shot by July the 4th. Seven states have already done this.
Getting vaccinated has never been easier. We are -- 80,000 locations where you can get a shot, 90 percent of you live within five miles of one of those locations.
You can now find a vaccine site near you by texting your zip code to 438829, 438829. Your zip code, and that number. You'll get all the places near you.
Many places don't require an appointment. Just walk in and get the shot. It's free. And everyone 12 years and above is eligible.
If you need help getting your vaccine site -- getting to or from your vaccination site, Lyft and Uber are offering free rides to take you to the vaccination site and bring you back home between May 24th and July the 4th. To anyone who wants to get vaccinated.
And I've called on employers to do their part as well. Offering their employees paid time off to get vaccinated.
And we've set up a program nationally to reimburse those businesses for the cost of giving employees the time off.
Now it's time to get your shot. We have the vaccine. We've secured enough supply to vaccinate all adults and children above the age of 12.
I repeat, now's the time to get your vaccine shot.
Now, over the past 118 days our vaccinations program has led the world. And today, we're taking an additional step to help the world.
We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that's raging globally is under control. No ocean is wide enough, no walls high enough to keep us safe.
Rampant disease and death in other countries can destabilize them, those countries, and pose a risk to us as well.
New variants could as I rise overseas that could put us at greater risk.
And we need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and to do the right thing of helping other people. It's the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. It's the strong thing to do.
In March, we shared over four million doses of our AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and Mexico. At the end of April, we announced that we would provide another 60 million doses of our AstraZeneca vaccine overseas.
Remember, this is the vaccine that's not authorized for use in the United States yet. So we're going to be sending it to folks once the FDA's reviewed this and said it's safe.
This is all the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in the United States. All of it will be sent to other countries.
And today, I'm announcing that we'll also share U.S.-authorized vaccine doses of Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as they become available with the rest of the world as well.
These are vaccinations and vaccines that are authorized to be put in arms of Americans.
And by the end of June, when we will have taken delivery of enough of such vaccines to protect everyone in the United States, the United States will share at least 20 million of those doses, that extra supply, with other countries.
This means, over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. That represents 13 percent of the vaccines produced by the United States by the end of June.
This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date, five times more than any other country. More than Russia, China, which have donated 15 million doses. You know, there's a lot of talk about Russia and China influencing the
world with vaccines.
We want to lead the world with our values, with this demonstration of our innovation and ingenuity and the fundamental decency of the American people.
Just as in World War II, America was the arsenal of democracy in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic, our nation is going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world.
We'll share these vaccines in the service of ending the pandemic everywhere. And we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries.
We'll work with COVAX, the international organization set up, and other partners to ensure that the vaccines are delivered in a way that is equitable and that follows the science and the public health data.
Today's announcement to share 80 million doses is our next step as we ramp up the efforts to respond to COVID-19 around the world.
In the weeks ahead, working with the world's democracies, we'll coordinate a multilateral effort to end this pandemic.
I expect to announce progress in this area at the G-7 summit in the United Kingdom in June, which I plan on attending.
This is a unique moment in history. And it requires American leadership.
But I want to be clear, being in this pandemic globally is beyond the capacity of any one nation, even the United States. But we'll continue -- the United States will continue to donate our excess supply as that supply is delivered to us.
But that won't be nearly enough. We need -- what we need to do is lead an entirely new effort.
An effort that involves working with the pharmaceutical companies and others, and partner nations to vastly increase supply, to create, most of it here in the United States.
The kind of capacity that can beat this pandemic worldwide, in a way that creates jobs here at home, and saves lives abroad.
This will take longer than our immediate work to donate from an existing supply. And we're going to be asking other nations to help shoulder the economic cost of this effort.
But the consequences will be more lasting and more dramatic. Doing this will help us beat the pandemic. And leave us with a manufacturing capacity here to prepare for the next crisis, the next vaccine needed. I'm putting Jeff Zients, who's leading our COVID team and the COVID
efforts to beat the virus here in the United States, in charge of this effort.
Jeff will be working with our National Security Council and a talented dedicated team that's been stood up across our government.
It will include Gail Smith at the State Department leading in diplomacy and experts from our Agency of International Department and the Department of Health and Human Services as well.
We're going to bring the same whole-of-government response to the global effort that made us so successful here at home.
Again, we have enough -- we have -- we, the United States, has secured enough supply for all eligible Americans, all Americans 12 years old and older.
And we still have work to do though. Hard work.
But because we have done so much here, because of the power of American companies research and manufacturing we can continue to do more to help the rest of the world.
This is a rapidly changing world. And it's a mistake to bet against democracies.
Just as democracies led the world in the darkness of World War II, democracy will lead the world out of this pandemic.
And America will lead those democracies as they work to bring greater health and hope to the world in the months to come.
And folks, think back, four months ago, four months ago was an audacious goal we had to put a million shots in the arms of my first hundred days as president, 100 million I should say. We did over 220 million shots in that time frame.
Back then, most adults weren't eligible to get the shot. Now everyone 12 years and older is eligible.
And tomorrow -- by tomorrow, 60 percent of all American adults will have received at least one shot.
Look at what we've done. Look what we've done, America. Look what you've done, America.
There's not a single thing beyond our capacity to do in this country when we decide to do it and we'll decide to do it together. We can do whatever we set our minds to do if we do it together.
That's exactly what we're going to do, solve the problem here in the United States, which we're well on our way of doing, and help solve the problem for the world by organizing the rest of the democracies of the world.
I want to thank you all. God bless you. And may God protect our troops.
Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, any movement on the cease-fire, given the escalation and violence we're seen over the weekend?
BIDEN: I'll be speaking with the prime minister in an hour, and I'll be able to talk to you after that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you said that it's Israel's rights to defend itself, do you still believe its actions are -- (INAUDIBLE)?
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: OK, you just heard from the president there talking about vaccinating Americans and helping get vaccines around the globe.
He talked about how the U.S. is announcing it will be providing more vaccines, 20 million more doses of vaccines to the international community in addition to the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines that were previously announced.
And that all happening in the next six weeks, he said.
And he talked about the effort here at home. He said that the U.S., in the past four months, went from 6 percent to 60 percent of the adult population having at least one dose.
But as we bring in Elizabeth Cohen, our senior medical correspondent, he says, Elizabeth, there's still much more work to be done.
DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's work to be done. Sixty percent is not herd immunity. That's what President Biden says that we will be at -- I think he said as of tomorrow, that 60 percent of Americans will have had at least one shot.
I think there's another sort of more subtle point we need to keep in mind. If the unvaccinated among us are clustered in certain geographical areas, that is not good.
Because then they're infecting each other, they're starting sort of these little pockets of COVID, and that's how you can get variants. The more COVID that's spreading around, the more you can get variants.
And so if the unvaccinated were spread out, it wouldn't be a big deal. But there's some reason to think they may be clustered in certain areas.
The effort to get people vaccinated still must continue. And right now, it's not about availability,. It's not about ease. As
the president said, you can take an Uber or Lyft for free.
It is, at this point, really about people who don't seem to want it, or don't feel that they need it enough to make that effort. To change those hearts and minds is going to be difficult -- Ana?
CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
And as we heard, asked of the president at the end there, what was happening in Israel, and the situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
The president just announcing he's speaking with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the next hour. We hope to have more to answer those questions after that conversation.
Because right now, we're hearing more and more appeals for a cease- fire. They're going nowhere so far with the Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides exchanging more attacks today. And President Biden is under increasing pressure to act. We are live on the ground.
CABRERA: Another day of bombs and destruction in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as that intense fighting enters its second week with no end in sight despite international pleas for a cease-fire.
Israeli warplanes launching a fresh round of devastating airstrikes on Gaza. And the death toll there jumping to 200, with 40,000 people displaced, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Meanwhile, Israel says rocket fire from Gaza has killed at least 10 people since this new flare-up began.
I want to bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman who joins us from Jerusalem.
Ben, what's the latest?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is, as you said, it's the continuing rockets from Gaza and airstrikes into Israel.
But I think, beyond that, what is emerging is that Gaza is staring in the face of a profound humanitarian crisis.
We understand from the power generating of the electricity authority in Gaza that they are within days of completely failing to provide any power to the entire strip, an area which is home to two million people.
That means that the water system won't be able to run, the health system, what's left of it, won't be able to run as a result of this situation.
It seems that this small part of the world, a small strip of land on the Mediterranean, is being bombed and blockaded back into the pre- industrial era. And officials in Gaza, Hamas or otherwise, are very concerned about the situation.
It's worth mentioning that, over the years, people have described Gaza as an open-air prison.
But also it's worth remembering that several years ago, a senior U.N. official mentioned that the residents of Gaza are caged in a toxic slum from birth to death.
And of course, the already bad situation in Gaza -- and I've been to Gaza many times -- you cannot drink the water out of the faucets. You have to buy bottled water. Electricity is frequently cut.
And these hostilities have just made it worse and worse and worse -- Ana?
CABRERA: Gosh, it is an awful situation there.
Ben, thank you for continuing to stay on it for us.
We heard the president say he's going to speak with the Israeli prime minister minutes from now.
And the White House also saying today that it's working through quiet and intensive diplomacy rather than public calls for a cease-fire.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.
Kaitlan, now we're learning the Biden administration notified Congress earlier this month that the U.S. sold $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel before this violence began.
That's obviously not what some progressives want to hear.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And CNN's understanding is that that happened, of course, before this latest violence had broken out, you know, some of the Yes, this is some of the deadliest violence we've seen happen for several years from now.
But this is going to be a factor in the pressure now facing the White House about how they're going to respond to this and what is it exactly President Biden will say to the Israeli prime minister when he speaks to him in the next hour.
And just to, Ana, give you a sense of how much this is ramping up here and how focused the administration is on this after not being focused on it during Biden's early days in office, this is the second call he had with Netanyahu in just about 48 hours.
Because he also spoke to him on Saturday. He spoke to the Palestinian leader as well. We will see if he speaks to the Palestinian leader again now that he's speaking to Netanyahu for a second time.
But this comes as, you know, the questions are really is the U.S. going to call for an immediate cease-fire here?
Because that is what President Biden was asked. And he did not say which way he is leaning there. Instead, he just answered and announced he's going to be holding this call with the Israeli prime minister coming up.
The question of what he's going to do with that is really a big one because, of course, the question is following these calls from Democratic Senators saying that he needs to take a more aggressive stance here, he needs to call for a cease-fire.
And the progressive wing from his party also pushing for that. Those are over two dozen Senators who have called for an immediate cease- fire, yet even though the U.S. hasn't officially done so.
And, Ana, the other big thing facing this is this intelligence that Netanyahu has said he's given to the U.S. after they flattened that building, a building in Gaza that was housing the Associated Press and other news outlets over the weekend.
That was by an Israeli airstrike. And they said it was justified because Hamas was operating out of there. They said they had evidence of that.
The question of who has seen that evidence in the U.S. remains to be seen.
Listen to what Netanyahu said and then listen to what the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We share with our American friends all of that intelligence. And here's the intelligence we had.
It's about Palestinian terrorists -- an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization, housed in that building, that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
So it's a perfectly legitimate target.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Shortly after the strike, we did request additional details regarding the justification for it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said you requested additional information. Have you received it? Have you seen it? And did you find it credible?
BLINKEN: I have not he seen any information provided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, Ana, Blinken said there he has not seen any of that intelligence. And the White House, during the briefing earlier today, would not say whether or not President Biden had seen the intelligence or justification from the Israelis for that strike.
And they also did say they would not be telling us whether or not President Biden has actually viewed that intelligence.
CABRERA: And yet, the situation continues to get more deadly, it appears, with yesterday being the deadliest day so far with the recent flare-up.
Thank you, Kaitlan Collins, at the White House.
CNN is learning the U.S. is investigating another suspected case of a mysterious illness striking a White House official. This one happening right near the entrance to the White House.
CABRERA: CNN has learned a second White House official has been hit with a mysterious illness now reported by more than 100 U.S. personnel worldwide.
CNN's Natasha Bertrand is part of the team that broke the story.
What are you learning about these cases near the White House?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Ana. Yes, what we are learning is that there are two National Security Council staffers who were impacted by this anomalous health incident, which is what the administration is calling it, in November 2020.
One of the officials was struck the day after the election. And the other struck with symptoms a few weeks later. One, of course, passing through an unstaffed gate in the Ellipse and the other through into the White House grounds.
Obviously, these symptoms are raising concerns among U.S. officials that perhaps something that has been going on worldwide, affecting diplomates, U.S. diplomats, spies and other personnel, is now coming to the president's doorstep.
The symptoms are very -- they range in severity. So some people experience headaches. Others experience sleeplessness. Some have even been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries after experiencing these incidents.
Of course, the White House and the administration are not yet going so far to call them attacks, because they don't have enough evidence to do that yet. Very unclear still what these incidents are and what is causing them.
One leading theory is that they are caused by microwave energy, which can, of course, have impacts on the brain. But still not enough evidence to rule out any kind of other aspect of
this, which might be maybe there's some kind of collection effort going on by foreign spies that is creating these anomalous health symptoms in U.S. personnel.
Right now, still no real known cause of these symptoms. Still no real known culprit.
And the U.S. Intelligence Community is still working very hard to figure out both what is behind these incidents and also who is responsible.
CABRERA: It is such a mystery. Bizarre.
Thank you, Natasha Bertrand, for that update.
Thank you all for joining me. I will see you back here tomorrow. And you can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.