Reporters ask Biden zero questions on COVID-19
President Biden didn’t get a single question at his first press conference about the coronavirus pandemic that has been the biggest story for the last year.
Biden did make announcements related to the pandemic at the outset of the press conference, announcing his goal of administering 200 million vaccine shots to Americans by the end of his first 100 days in office.
“We will by my 100th day in office have administered 200 million shots in people’s arms,” Biden said. “I know it’s ambitious – twice our original goal – but no other country in the world has come close, not even close, to what we’re doing.”
Biden also announced a new $10 billion investment meant to expand vaccine uptake in minority and rural communities.
But no reporters asked him about the pandemic, vaccinations or anything else related to the coronavirus for the next hour plus as Biden fielded questions in immigration, gun control and foreign policy.
Biden took questions from 10 reporters on the filibuster, bipartisanship, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, his plans to run for reelection and China. The surge of migrants at the southern border was the most popular topic.
The lack of focus on the pandemic shows how the press’s attention is shifting from the health crisis to other issues, notably immigration and the filibuster.
Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, seemed to recognize the lack of questions on the pandemic, retweeting several tweets from journalists and political figures that noted the same.
Biden’s focus in his first two months has been on addressing the pandemic and getting Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion rescue package, something he noted in his first answer to a question from the Associated Press on how to advance his agenda on voting rights, immigration reform, and gun control in a divided Congress.
“I got elected to solve problems and the most urgent problem faced the American people, I stated from the outset, was COVID-19 and the economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans,” Biden said. “The other problems we’re talking about from immigration to guns and the other things you mentioned are long term problems.”
Biden said he hoped “god willing” to focus on those issues one at a time.
The U.S. surpassed 30 million coronavirus cases in total on Wednesday and nearly 550,000 Americans have died as a result of the virus. Millions have lost jobs because of the pandemic, though the economic pain showed signs of easing somewhat on Thursday as initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 20 fell under 700,000 for the first time in a year.
“There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and we still have a lot of work to do,” Biden said at the beginning of the press conference after mentioning the new figures. He stressed that “help is here and hope is on the way.”