Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 4:35 P.M. EDT MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Okay, today, as you saw during his meeting wi

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:35 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Okay, today, as you saw during his meeting with CEOs and labor leaders to discuss the importance of passing the CHIPS Act, the President is doing quite well and continues to be engaged in the important work in front of him.  You might have heard a little hoarseness in his voice, which Dr. O’Connor mentioned is one of the few residual symptoms remaining.  But I can tell you he was excited to discuss the issue and was also excited to take some questions from you guys today. 

As you know, Dr. O’Connor provided another update on President Biden’s health, indicating that he is doing quite well, which you were able to see for yourself just now, and he continues to respond well to Paxlovid after his fourth day of treatment last night.

As we have said, almost everyone is going to get COVID.  And because of the hard work we have done since one — since day one, turning around the disjointed COVID response we inherited, we have the tools to ensure that people can go about their daily life and work. 

The President is fully vaccinated, twice boosted, and is taking Paxlovid.  His current health speaks to how Americans should avail themselves of boosters and treatments. 

I’m now going to — I’m going to hand it over now to Dr. Jha, who has some updates — I don’t want to get ahead of him — on COVID and the administration’s effort to aggressively combat monkeypox and protect communities from the virus. 

We’re going to — he’s going to have an opening.  We’re going to keep him from 15, 20 minutes to take your questions.  And then I know there are other topics that you all want to touch on, and then we’ll continue with the briefing. 

All right, go ahead, Dr. Jha.

DR. JHA:  Great, thank you.  All right.  Good afternoon, everybody.  So I’m pleased to be with you again today.  As Karine mentioned, the President continues to do well.  He was feeling good this weekend.  He continues to improve. 

And before I open up to questions — and, again, you all had a chance to see him; many of you had a chance to ask him questions — I want to give you an update on both COVID-19 and mo- — and monkeypox. 

So let’s talk a little bit about COVID.  I want to start by emphasizing the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations as we face BA.5. 

Approximately 400 Americans are still dying every day, which, while much better than it was when the President took office, is still too many, still too high, particularly because we can now prevent most of these deaths. 

Our existing vaccines continue to provide robust protection against serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.  And because protection wanes over time, it is crucial for people to get a booster to stay up to date. 

Most deaths are happening in people who are not up to date on their vaccines.  Let me the repeat that: Most deaths are happening in people who are not up to date with their vaccines.  And it is critical that people get out and get vaccinated.  As I have said this — and as I’ve said before and I will say again, if you’re over 50 or moderately or severely immunocompromised — but if you’re over 50 and haven’t gotten a vaccine this year, in the year 2022, you should get one right away.  I would not wait.

Now, looking ahead, we know this virus is constantly evolving, and we can’t be complacent.  And we are in the much better situation that we are in today because we have been aggressive and forward-leaning in our approach.  And we will continue doing that. 

And to that end, tomorrow we will be hosting the White House Summit on the Future of COVID-19 Vaccines.  There’s a lot of work happening inside the U.S. government and in private industry on the true next generation of COVID-19 vaccines.  And the summit will feature some of the cutting-edge work being done by U.S. government scientists, scientists in the private sector, companies — American companies who are working on these issues.

This summit is an opportunity to bring people together to showcase the science that is already happening, to highlight the work of this administration and what it — what it is doing to bring about these advances for the American people. 

Now, I want to take a few minutes to talk about monkeypox, because this is — I know also has been on people’s minds.  And we all saw over the weekend that the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, so let me give you a quick update.

The declaration by Dr. Tedros of the PHEIC — the Public Health Emergency of International Concern — was a call to action to the world community to stop the spread of this virus. 

The international community must work together to protect individuals that have been impacted by monkeypox and those most at risk of contracting the virus.  WHO’s declaration will allow the United States and other partners to better collaborate, to share data, and to get critical information out to high-risk communities. 

Here at home, since the earliest days of this outbreak in the U.S. in mid-May, the Biden administration has deployed a robust, comprehensive strategy to combat monkeypox.  Our strategy has four key pillars, and I want to go through them.

First is to dramatically scale up procurement, production, and distribution of vaccines.  Second is to significantly expand access to testing.  Third is to significantly expand access to treatments.  And fourth is outreach to communities most affected by the virus.

We have been working around the clock to ramp up our response and to make important progress in short order.  To date, we have distributed more than 300,000 vaccines to jurisdictions around the country.  We have procured more vaccines than any other country in the world, probably more than every other country in the world combined. 

FDA is working quickly to finalize the approval of nearly 800,000 additional doses, and we are getting ready to ship these doses to jurisdictions once FDA has finally approved them.

We have 1.3 million doses of TPOXX, the treatment for smallpox that can also be used for monkeypox, in our stockpile.  And we are working day and night to make access to that treatment easier for providers around the country.

When the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in the United States, we had the capacity to do 6,000 tests per week — much higher than demand — but we knew that testing at the time wasn’t as convenient for providers as it needed to be.  So the CDC immediately started working with five of the biggest commercial labs to get monkeypox testing going online so doctors can use their existing partnerships with commercial labs. 

Today, because of that work, there is capacity to do 80,000 tests per week, and we are continuing to do extensive outreach to providers to make testing easier. 

Finally, we’ve been working on the ground with community health partners, members of the LGBT community, and others to ensure that we are getting out good information, that we are addressing concerns that they have, we are listening to their concerns. 

And finally, we want to make sure that we — all Americans understand that we have taken — we are — continue to take this virus seriously.  We’re going to continue working on increasing access to testing, vaccines, and treatments, and making sure that Americans understand what risks and challenges this virus faces and what the administration is doing to respond to it.

All right, let me finally finish up by saying: You’ve heard a lot of talk this weekend from — about the — from the Department of Health and Human Services about what it is planning to do.  You heard Secretary Becerra today talk about the importance of this virus and the government’s response.  We are committed to being — not only continue to be aggressive, but to continue to ramp up our response to this virus and protect communities in the United States that have been most affected by monkeypox.

Let me stop and take questions.  I think I have about 15 minutes or so.  And, KJP, I’ll let you drive the question-taking.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  All right.  Go ahead, Mike.

Q    Dr.  Jha, the President just indicated that he hopes to potentially be able to return back to the West Wing early — or later this week.  Can you walk us through what the protocol would be for him to do that?  I think phase zero was Thursday; we’re at day four.  Is this a negative test tomorrow, or are there additional precautions that Dr. O’Connor may want to evaluate before doing that?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, it’s a great question.  So the CDC guidance on this is very clear: five days of isolation.  Today is, as you said, day four, so tomorrow will be day five.  He will — once  he has a negative test after day five, he can end his isolation.

CDC guidance suggests that he wear a mask when he’s around others.  The President is going to follow CDC guidance.

Q    And those of us who have been vaccinated but may have also had COVID-19, there’s often the extra immunity that comes with that.  But given what we now know based on what Dr. O’Connor said over the weekend, that this appears to be the BA.5 variant, does that affect sort of what is typically sort of a 90-day window, as we understand it, where you have that enhanced immunity?  Are there any signs early on that BA.5 — he’ll be less likely to have that kind of window?

DR. JHA:  It’s a really good question.  What we know is that it is true that, in the past, with previous variants, we used to say that if you got infected, you had about a 90-day warranty.  And it wasn’t a warranty ironclad but high likelihood that you weren’t going to get reinfected within 90 days. 

What we know, because BA.5 is so immune-evasive, that we have seen lots of people get reinfected within 90 days.  If you got infected with a BA.2 or a BA.1, getting reinfected with BA.5 within 90 days is very common. 

The duration of protection from BA.5, which you’re asking about, we just don’t have any data; we don’t know.  So we’re going to track that very closely. 

Obviously, the President will continue — the good news here is the President is vaccinated, boosted.  We will continue to, kind of, make sure that he is up to date on his vaccines as time goes on, but we don’t have any — any data that I know of on duration of protection after a BA.5 infection.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Caitlin.

Q    CDC guidance says also not to travel for 10 days.  Does that mean the President won’t travel until those 10 days are up?

DR. JHA:  I don’t know the details of the President’s schedule.  What I will say is that the President plans to follow the CDC guidelines, as we have.  And right now, we’re focused on making sure the pa- — you know, obviously the President is isolated, and he will not leave isolation until his test is negative. 

Q    And do you have any plans to see him in person before his fifth day is up, to treat him in person, to —

DR. JHA:  Do I, personally?

Q    (Nods.)

DR. JHA:  No, I’ve been speaking to the President on a regular basis, sometimes on phone, sometimes by FaceTime.  Dr. O’Connor sees him. 

Obviously, we want to limit the number of contacts.  Right? And so — to protect others.  And so the footprint around the President has been small and really limited to the most essential people who need to see him.

Q    Thank you, Dr. Jha.  What is the window that you’ll be watching to see if there is potential for relapse, given the President has taken Paxlovid and we have seen that happen with other people?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, it’s a really good question.  Rebound — again, I think I brought this up last week — the clinical data suggests that between 5 and 8 percent of people have rebound.  And that happens sometimes as early as three or four days, sometimes it can be a little longer. 

You know, obviously, the President is monitored on a clo- — ongoing basis.  He’s around people.  He’s — he has a personal physician who sees him on a regular basis.  So we will continue monitoring the pa- — I was going to say “the patient,” which is true — but the President, on an ongoing basis.

Q    And one question on monkeypox.  Given the limited testing early on, how many more cases do you think there actually are right now in the United States than what we know about?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, so I would say — first of all, in terms of testing, you know, we had 6,000 tests available per week, which works out to about eight, nine hundred tests a day.  I don’t think testing capacity has been a major limitation.  One of the challenges has been that a lot of providers have found it difficult to actually order the tests.  That’s one of the reasons we brought in the national labs, because physicians are very comfortable using national labs. 

You know, obviously, we want to continue working on making sure testing is more and more widely available so that we’re tracking every case and identifying every case.  I don’t have a number of how many cases — further cases are out there, but I do expect, by the way, that as all these national labs now come online, as they have over the last week, I would not be surprised if we see an increase in cases as testing becomes more robust.  That’s a very normal part of any outbreak response — is that as testing ramps up, you tend to see an increase in cases because people can identify it more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re just going to jump ar- —

Q    I guess the number is significantly higher than what we know right now?

DR. JHA:  It’s very hard for me to make guesses on what the number is.  And I think the goal is to make testing easy, widespread, available so that people can order those tests.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just going to jump around.  Go ahead.

Q    Just on the global response to monkeypox.  As we know, viruses don’t respect borders.  What is the U.S. able, willing, prepared to do to address that, especially since this affects communities that are often stigmatized, left out of public health interventions? 

And then I have a follow-up Trump question for you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll — I can take it once Dr. Jha (inaudible).

DR. JHA:  Yeah, so we have had a very global — kind of a very strong engagement in the global community on monkeypox for years.  We have worked with multiple countries on the African continent where most of the disease has been endemic in the past.  We continue to have strong partnerships with multiple countries around building up laboratory capacity.  That same testing capacity we’re talking about here in the United States, it’s really essential that other countries have that as well.  We’re continuing that work. 

This outbreak obviously now is in many, many other countries as well.  And so we’re in constant conversations with our European colleagues, with colleagues in other parts of the world.  I think this public health emergency declaration will also further galvanize global response. 

I’ll make a couple of more points.  I mean, the U.S. really, on monkeypox, has been a global leader.  We are the major funder of the company that makes the Jynneos vaccine.  We, in fact, have had a very large role to make sure that that vaccine exists and has come into being.

So U.S. global leadership on monkeypox, I think, is both longstanding, and we’re going to continue doing all of those things to make sure this really is a global response.

Q    But any — any concrete deliverables that we might see (inaudible)?

DR. JHA:  Well, so we’re working with countries to do — so — and different countries have different needs.  Different countries have different technical needs.  So we are right now engaged in a lot of both bilateral and multilateral conversations with nations to figure out what help do they need, what kinds of technical and other kinds of expertise can we provide.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead, Josh.

Q    Okay, thank you.  And if I — I have a question for you later, if I — just one quick one.  If you can humor me later with one, I would appreciate it. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Yes, I will humor you later.

Q    Very quickly, on the staying up to date: It was reported that — potentially, that that eligibility could be lower — be below age 50.  Other countries that are doing this — offering a fourth shot for adults.  Can you give us an update as to whether you expect that to be the case or your personal reading of the data?  Is it necessary for adults who do not have moderate or severe immunocompromised situations under age 50 to get a shot?  Many, of course, have gone now — what would it be? — 9 or 10 months since their last shot.

DR. JHA:  Yeah.  Yeah, great question, Josh.  Let me — let’s kind of take a step back and understand what we do know about being up to date. 

For all Americans, it is very, very clear from the evidence — like, just incontrovertibly clear — that if you got fully vaccinated, if you got your two shots but have not gotten your booster, you need to get that.  Like, that is essential.  It’s probably the most important message people need to hear — is if you’ve not gotten that third shot, it is essential whether you’re over 50 or you’re under 50.  Basically, everybody above the age of five needs to have that booster.  It just provides a level of protection that is absolutely essential.  I think that’s point number one.

On point number two: It’s, certainly for people over 50 — and I know you guys are getting tired of me saying it, but it’s true; and the President is, like, very good evidence for this — it is absolutely essential that if it’s been more than five months since you got your last shot, you absolutely need to get that second booster.

On the people under 50 and the second booster — you know, FDA, CDC have been very clear since this conversation started, this is — these are FDA, CDC decisions.  They’re constantly looking at the data to try to make a determination of whether the risks outweigh the benefits — or, sorry, the benefits outweigh the risks.  And that evaluation is ongoing.

I don’t have any news to report.  I don’t know what — when — if and/or when the FDA is going to act on that.  What I will say is that this is — these are FDA, CDC decisions, and they’re still looking at that data.

Q    There was a report last week that it was sort of pumping the brakes on that after reporting a couple weeks earlier that it was ramping up.  Can you give us a sense of the trajectory?  Has anything changed, in your view?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, I read that report too, and I am not aware of any change in trajectory. 

What I know is that the FDA scientists are looking at this and trying to make a determination of whether it’s — they want to make a change in policy or not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Steven.

Q    Thanks.  In an effort to try to really firmly establish the history of what has happened here in the last week, are you in a position to explain what the testing regimen was for the President prior to his COVID diagnosis?

DR. JHA:  What I will say and what I know is — and, again, Karine, you may have more on this — is that the President — there was a regular cadence.  As you might imagine, the President travels, the President has different days where he’s interacting with different numbers of people.  So all of that goes into the regular cadence. 

The President got tested on a regular basis, but there was not a single cadence that was true every week.  It varied based on a lot of other factors as well, based on what was happening with his travel schedule.

Q    Interesting.  One of the questions that’s been asked and we’ll have to raise it again is why the President’s personal physician is not here.  Are you — are you familiar with a reason that the President decided not to send his physician here to answer our questions the way that his predecessors have decided to send their physicians here?

DR. JHA:  KJP, I don’t know if you want to start it.  I’m happy to give my thoughts.  Or do you want me to just give mine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Why — why don’t you start and then I’ll — I’ll come in. 

DR. JHA:  Yeah, so, look, you’ve heard every day from the President’s personal physician through his detailed accounting of his assessment, his plan. 

I have been speaking to the — to both his personal physician — I speak to him every single day at length — with the President on an ongoing basis. 

And the bottom line is: The President has had, thankfully — because he is double vaccinated and double boosted — he’s had a relatively mild upper respiratory infection.  And in that context, we have provided, I think, an extraordinary amount of transparency about his care: when he got — tested positive; how he’s done each day; the evolving nature of his symptoms — is his runny nose a little worse, a little bit better.  Like, we’ve been very, very open and transparent with all of that data. 

And what I’m able to do is, obviously, provide that broader context of how to think about the President’s condition and — in the context of the broader COVID response that we have. 

But the President’s physician, I think, has been very — his words have been very clear.  And you’ve heard from him through his letters every single day.

Q    But, forgive me, you know, there’s a history here in this room of president’s physicians standing here to take questions —

DR. JHA:  Yeah.

Q    — and in part because some of your colleagues in the medical profession do have questions.  And they’ve asked us to ask those questions —

DR. JHA:  Yeah.

Q    — about why he — the President’s doctor ordered him to stop taking Crestor and Eliquis.  You have done your best to communicate the answer that the President’s physician has given, but are you familiar with a reason why the President decided not to send his doctor out to answer those questions specifically?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, what I will say is, again, if you take a look — step back and ask the question, you know, “What’s the medical condition that the President has?” — yes, he has COVID, which is very dangerous for people who are not vaccinated, not boosted, not taking therapeutics.  But the — that is not the President.  The President’s immunity is up to date.  He’s getting treated in that context.  He’s had a, thankfully — and, again, we continue monitoring the President and hope that it all continues the way it has gone so far — but he’s had, thankfully, a relatively mild respiratory illness. 

In that context, you know, I think that you’ve been hearing from the President’s physician, you’re hearing from me.  That is a lot of information.  It’s certainly plenty of information to understand both the President’s condition and the decisions that are being made. 

I don’t know if you want to add anything further.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, just a couple of things.  As you, Steve, mentioned some of our — from some of the medical colleagues — I just want to say a couple of things about some notable healthcare professionals who have validated our treatment approach, who have been on networks here in this room, and also who have been in newspapers of some folks here.

For example, Dr. Leana Wen from Georgetow- — George Washington University.  In Wash- — in the Washington Post, she said the President’s medical team “has done all the right things” followed his — following his diagnosis.  “The fact that he contracted the coronavirus doesn’t mean that the vaccines don’t work; rather…succeeded because they are keeping him out of the hospital.”  “The United States has had so much success with vaccines and treatments that even when the President gets the virus, it’s business as usual.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent: “The statistics are very much” on this — “on his side.”  “Because of his vaccines and the Paxlovid medication… [it’s] a different time.  When President Trump got COVID, there was no vaccine at that point.  So this is an example of how effective the vaccines are, just if you compare those two situations.”

And the reason why I read those two is because we have seen, from his doctor, that he’s had very mild symptoms that, right now, he’s almost completely resolved.  And he has been able to do the work of the American people. 

And so we — if you go back to on Thursday, when we learned he was positive, we put out a statement — I put out a statement.  Then we had a letter from the doctor.  And then we kept our commitment on making sure you heard from the doctor himself. 

Look, we are in a different place.  This is not 21, 22 months ago; this is not even a year and a half ago.  And so this is — we’ve been here almost every day since — not every day since, every workday since — for about an hour, fielding your questions, taking your questions. 

Your colleagues were able — one of your colleagues, right there, was able to ask the President a question, and he answered directly.  That event that he did lasted about an hour. 

So you’ve had eyes on him.  You’ve asked questions.  You’ve heard from us.  And — and we’re going to continue to give that information as well.

Q    And just one last thing, and that’s it for me.  Do you foresee a circumstance, Karine, where the person who treats the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces will never — or will ever come to this podium?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that we are in a different place with COVID.  Right?  We are able to do the business — he’s able to do the business of the American people — and not just him, other Americans as well — because there are vaccines that are free, because there are boosters that are free, because there’s Paxlovid, which is an antiviral medication that has helped him really take to the treatment well, really recover very well. 

You saw him again for your very own eyes.  You saw him give a speech at NOBLE that we’ve just played for all of you, which is why we were a little bit — a little bit behind in starting this, and also during his CHIPS event. 

And so, that’s not what I’m saying; I’m saying that we are just in a different time with COVID.

Q    But can I —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Karen.

Q    Yeah, thanks, Karine.  Just to go back to some of the Paxlovid rebound questions.  Once the President does test negative at some point in the next coming days, how often then will he be tested to determine he stays negative, that there isn’t the rebound?  What would that testing cadence look like?

DR. JHA:  It’s a good question.  So, as you know, he may remain PCR positive for a long time.  We don’t use PCR testing in people who — not — does he — everybody who recovers.  So we don’t use PCR testing. 

But in terms of his — the regular cadence of his antigen testing, that is not something that — I don’t know what the — what the cadence will be, and that’s something that’s going to be decided between him and his physician.

Q    And you mentioned the 90-day warranty that, you know, in previous rounds of COVID and variants, people had, and that this one, there’s no data because we don’t know it yet.  But, you know, the President, when he does then test negative, what would your recommendation be, in terms of what his protocols would be, when he goes back to events, when he goes back to engaging with people and the public?  Do you have to go back to assuming that he could get it very soon after this?  What would the level of caution have to be for the President, given this particular variant and the transmission of it right now?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, so there’s a lot of hypotheticals here.  Let me just say what we know.  I mean, the expectation is that while BA.5 is dominant, anybody who’s gotten a — who’s had a BA.5 infection should have a relatively high degree of protection against further BA.5 infections.  That’s, I think, a reasonable assumption, but there’s not a lot of data on that, so we’re obviously going to continue collecting that data. 

This is a President who has been very clear that he wants to be out among the American people — spending time with people, meeting with people, interacting with people.  Once he is cleared and is testing negative, I’m assuming that he will go back to some version of that, as you saw even while he was infected — and still is, I guess, but, you know, potentially contagious — he continued working.  And I expect him to have a — you know, a schedule that he goes back to, a cadence where he’s, again, interacting with people.  But the details will obviously vary based on kind of how things go in the days and weeks ahead.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Joey.

Q    Yeah, thank you.  A related question: Should we expect a scaled-back schedule from the President once he tests negative and is in person again, or is it, you know, back to normal very quickly?  Like, what should we look for in the coming days after he does test negative and come — and returns in person?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, I’ll give you my — I mean, this is a President who continued working like 8, 10 hours a day while he has been infected.  He’s just worked a lot. 

Again, you know, my — let’s see when he tests negative.  My assumption is that he will continue doing well.  Obviously, we’re going to continue monitoring him and making sure that that exact — that does happen. 

And based on all of that, I think we’ll — we’ll see what his — but he’s got a long agenda.  He’s got a lot of work he wants to be doing for the American people, and so I think it’ll be, you know, some negotiation around —

Q    And it’ll be daily tests after Wednesday, if he were to test positive again on Wednesday?  I mean, is that going to be an everyday thing or even faster than that, more rapidly than

that?  Or —

DR. JHA:  I don’t think there’s much value of testing more than once a day. 

If he tests positive, we’ll continue following CDC guidelines, which he’ll get tested again on a — with a regular cadence. 

Q    But it won’t necessarily be daily after that?  Or I —

DR. JHA:   No, I think it — it’s a bunch of hypotheticals.  I want to make sure he’s — we’ll make sure he’s — continues to feel well.  We’ll see what the tests show, and then, I think, make a decision after that.

Q    Okay.  Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  A couple more and then we’ll let the Doctor go. 

Go ahead, Peter.

Q    To follow up on Dr. O’Connor not being here, is this a situation where Dr. O’Connor does not want to come and talk about the President’s health, or where the President doesn’t want Dr. O’Connor talking about his health?

DR. JHA:  I will tell you, I have spoken both to the President and to Dr. O’Connor on an ongoing basis, and neither of them has expressed a preference on either — Dr. O’Connor has not at any point said he doesn’t want to come; the President has not at any point said he does not want Dr. O’Connor to come. 

So I would say neither of those is correct.

Q    Okay.  And you said again today that the President is following the CDC guidelines very strictly.  It seems like there are people in the Residence taking his photo with no mask on.  I was looking at the guidance for COVID-positive people.  I don’t see any carveouts for something like that.  So is he really following the CDC guidelines?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, so, if you — so a couple of things: What’s really important is anybody who’s interacted with the President — and it’s been a much smaller footprint — has been social distanced as much as possible.  They’ve all been wearing N95s.  And whenever possible, we’ve done this on the — we’ve done this outside with windows open.

Q    But isn’t the guidance for the person with COVID to be wearing an N95 when there are people around as well?

DR. JHA:  So, look, Peter, I think — if you think about, you know, the President, he does generally wear a mask when he’s around other people.  He sometimes takes the mask off when he’s getting a photo taken.  He has been — most of his interactions with others, he has been wearing a mask.  And the bottom line is that everybody around him is fully vaccinated and boosted.  And he has been, I think, following CDC guidelines very carefully.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, April, and then the young woman in front of you.  But go ahead — you go first, April.

Q    Okay, Dr. Jha — thank you, Karine — I just want to find out the results of your contact tracing.  Do you have any results from that yet?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, I can give you an update as of midday today.  I think there were 17 people —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

DR. JHA:  I just want to get the number right.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s correct.

DR. JHA:  Seventeen people who were identified as potential close contacts.  They’ve all, of course, been notified.  They’re all being fol- — they’re all following CDC guidelines.  And as of earlier today, none of the — none of those 17 people had tested positive.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  And then we’ll take one more.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you.  I wanted to go back to monkeypox and ask what the government’s response is to some of the backlash regarding the messaging and language that could perpetuate homophobia and transphobia, like we saw during the HIV epidemic?

DR. JHA:  Are there specific things you’re concerned about?  I mean, I think, very clear at this point that the community most affected is the LGBTQ community.  This is one of the reasons why I said we’ve been deeply engaged with them, both to share information, also to learn more and make sure that — that everybody is communicating in a way that’s both scientifically accurate and respectful. 

You know, obviously, it’s really important that we do not use this moment to propagate homophobic or transphobic messaging.  And I think it’s really important that we stick to the science, stick to the evidence, and do it in a way that’s respectful of people.

Q    Thank you.  Just following up on monkeypox.  When will you decide, you know, whether it merits declaring a public — a public health emergency?  And what other factors would you need to look at?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, it’s a good question.  This is a decision that’ll be made by Secretary Becerra, the Department of Health and Human Services.  You know, with any outbreak, that evaluation almost sort of begins day one.  People start looking at and thinking about, you know, when is that appropriate.  I think Secretary Becerra will make that decision when he thinks that doing so will help with the response. 

Obviously, a PHE opens up certain capabilities for the — for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I know those are conversations that are ongoing and continue, and that’ll be a decision made by Secretary Becerra.

Q    And on the monkeypox vaccine, you know, is there consideration of invoking the DPA to produce more of it?  And how much do you estimate the U.S. would need total?

DR. JHA:  Yeah, that’s a very good question.  Again, and I — what I will say is, right now we’ve — we have about 760, 780 thousand doses that we’re planning on making allocations about in the — in the next few days, pending FDA authorization, of course.

We’re looking at the company that makes it.  We’re looking at their ability to produce more.  We’re talking to them about contract manufacturing in the United States and being able to produce more vaccines here. 

So we’re looking at a whole range of options.  Obviously, if other tools that the federal government has at its disposal are helpful, we will be — we will not be shy about invoking those tools.  But right now, we are looking at these sets of factors to see how much more vaccine can we get in the United States. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, thank you so much.

DR. JHA:  All right.  Thank you all for listening and have a good day.  And I’ll let you get back to KJP.

Q    Thank you, Dr. Jha. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Dr. Jha. 

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right, two things at the top. 

Peter, are you leaving us?  So soon.

Q    I’m so sorry.  (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ah, my —

Q    I’ll be back. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Ah, so disappointed.  (Laughter.)

Okay, I just have two things at the top, and then we’ll get started.  Okay, so we are closely monitoring the wildfires raging through Western United States, as well as the extreme heat conditions impacting millions of Americans.  The President has also been receiving regular updates.

Our hearts go out to the people who have been impacted by these extreme weather conditions, including those who may have lost their homes or businesses to what has become California’s biggest fire so far this summer.

More than 2,500 personnel and firefighters are on the ground fighting the fire.  And FEMA, on Saturday, quickly approved additional grant funding to help California pay for the cost of fighting the fire.

Federal agencies are also working with state and local partners to provide clear and accessible information on how people can protect themselves from extreme heat, and federal officials are proactively inspecting over 70 high-risk industries in areas under a heat warning or advisory.

As always, we are grateful for the brave and swift work of federal, state, and local responders.

It is clear that the impacts of extreme weather are intensifying across the country, which is why President Biden will continue taking bold action to tackle the climate crisis and protect Americans from threats like extreme heat.

And tomorrow, the administration will launch Heat.gov, a new website that will provide information and tools to assist federal, state, and local governments in responding to extreme heat.

President Biden has made clear that if the Senate is not acting on the climate emergency, he will.  In the coming days and weeks, our administration will continue announcing actions to help communities coping with extreme heat, mitigate wildfire risk, and tackle the climate crisis.

One last thing before we start.  President Biden is committed to doing everything he can to lower costs for the American people.  We have now seen more than five straight weeks of gas pricing — prices dropping.  And the current drop in gas prices remains one of the fastest declines in over a decade.

Gas prices have declined by an average of sixty-si- — 66 cents per gallon over the past 41 days.  At current prices, the average driver will spend $30 per month less than they would if gas prices stayed at their peak, or $70 per month for a family who — with two cars.

And according to an industry analyst, the most common price at gas stations across the country is now $3.99 per gallon, with around 40,000 gas stations across more than 36 states now offering gas at $3.99 per gallon or less.

There are now also nine states with average gasoline prices under $4.00.  For Americans looking for a little additional breathing room, as you hear the President say often, these savings truly matter.

All right, Will, you want to kick us off?

Q    Sure.  Thanks.  So medical issues aside, I just wonder if — can you give us a better idea of what the President’s return to work will look like?  Does he have events that are already scheduled and on hold until he can do them in person?  Is he waiting on announcements that we might get as soon as he’s negative?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, right now — I mean, just like Dr. Jha was saying, I can’t — I don’t want to get into hypotheticals.  Right now, you know, the President is still working.  He’s working eight-plus hours.  That is something that he told me personally, when we talked last week.  You saw him today doing — speaking at the NOBLE — NOBLE event and also holding an event with CEOs, labor leaders, and his own economics — economic team for about an hour.  So he is constantly working, constantly making decisions on behalf of the American people. 

I don’t have a schedule to lay out for you at this time.

Q    And you can’t tell us if he’s got things he’s — he wants to do but he can’t do because he can’t do them in person?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t want to get ahead of the President at this time.

Q    Okay.  I had one more on another topic.  On Speaker Pelosi and her possible trip to Taiwan, I wonder if the President or anyone at the White House has expressed concerns about a possible trip, and also if the White House has any comment about Republicans who have basically said that they support such a trip because it’d be an example of the U.S. standing up to China.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’ll say two things.  I haven’t — we haven’t seen that the Speaker has announced any travel.  So I don’t want to get ahead of her own announcement or her own schedule. 

I’ll say this: The administration routinely provides members of Congress with information and context for potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations.  Members of Congress will make their own decisions.  I’m not going to get ahead a — of an announcement or a schedule — or her own schedule.

Go ahead.

Q    The President said today that we’re not going to be in a recession.  Why is he so confident of that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So if you look at the economic indicators, as a pras- — the President was — was laying out, if you look at the labor market, right now, we are seeing historic — historic unemployment.  If you look at low unemployment at 3.6, if you look at the average amount of jobs that have been created — it’s about 400 [thousand] per month — those indicators do not show that we are in a recession or even a pre-recession.

There is — there is the N- — the NBER — the National Bureau of Economic — of Economic Research — that, actually, I’ve talked about before, and they look at a range of — they look at a broad range of data in deciding whether or not there is a recession.  And most of the data that they look at right now continues to be strong — those pieces that I just mentioned.

If you look at consumer — consumers and how they’re spending, if you look at what businesses and their households are investing, you can continue to see resilience, and it’s [not] consistent with a recession. 

And you — even if you look at the — the state — the state unemployment numbers that we saw last week, in 21 states, we saw that unemployment numbers were at — was at 3 percent or below. 

And so, all of those indicators show us that we’re not in a recession or in a pre-recession at this time.

Q    But how confident is that assessment, I guess?  Is the President leaving it open for the possibility, or is he adamant that there’s not going to be a recession?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I mean, it’s not — it’s not our definition.  Right?  We’re talking about a definition from NBER, which has been around since 1920, which has said back — I give you some — some quotes here:

In 2007, the San Francisco Federal Reserve said, you know, “Journalists often describe a recession as two consecutive quarters of declines in quarterly real (inflation adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP).  The definition used by economists differs.”

And so, again, NBER — they decide what the definition is.  And so, when you look at the economic indicators, we do — you do not see the job growth, the s- — the labor — the strong labor market that we’re seeing currently in a recession.

Q    And then, are there any plans to discuss with the President’s doctor coming out to brief the press, if not on COVID, on his general health conditions?  Or in other words, under what circumstances would he come out and talk to the press?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, you know, he put — we put out, back in November, a comprehensive examination that was done by a panel of doctors.  And we put that out, and the doctor — there was no doctor that came out to the podium and give — and take questions.  Right?  We put that out, and we took questions in the briefing room. 

And so, look, again, we’re — we’re in a different stage than we have been, currently, with COVID.  We are not where we are — were a year and a half.  And that — a lot of that is because of the comprehensive, you know, COVID response that the President has had; the fact that we — he’s able to be fully vaccinated and double boosted.  And not just him, we’re talking about Americans across the country.  And we are encouraging — we see this moment as a teachable moment, as a moment to really let folks know: If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, the time is now.  If you haven’t gotten your — that first or even second booster, the time is now to do that so you can have that extra protection.

Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    A quick follow-up to that.  Has — have you or did Dr. Jha ask Dr. O’Connor to come to the briefing room and they declined or — because Dr. Jha indicated that there was no resistance to doing that, but —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, there is no resistance to doing that.  The answer — the question that was asked, the answer is “no” to that.  We — we believe that the — not even “we believe” — we know that the President has very mild symptoms.  He is managing this.  He’s reacting to the treatment very well.  This is coming from Dr. O’Connor. 

And you all have seen him today twice, you know, taking questions from your colleagues.  And so, he’s able to presume — you know, resume, I should say, work on behalf of the ri- — of the American people, as he has been.  He’s isolated.  He’s following CDC guide- — guidelines by being isolated. 

But, again, that — this is — this is what’s important about the time that we’re in: We’re able to have the treatment.  We’re able to have the boosters, have the vaccine so that people can continue to do the work. 

And, you know, we should be thrilled.  We should be thrilled that our President is doing well and is responding well to the treatment and has very mild symptoms, or as — is at a point where his symptoms are pretty — pretty much resolved —

Q    I wa- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — as the President has said that.

Q    I wanted to ask about the — the President’s comments —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — in this address to NOBLE.  He refers to his predecessor watching the events of January 6th unfold from the private dining room, saying, “He didn’t have the courage to act.” 

I wonder if — does — this is the most specific and the most forceful we’ve heard President Biden speak about his predecessor’s conduct on January 6th.  And I wonder if this is an indication of a change in posture.  Would the President be bringing this kind of contrast more to the fore in the coming months?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So the President has been, you know, pretty — been — in the past several months has said that the former President bears responsibility on the insurrection.  And I think what you saw today was the President making that comparison — first of all, thanking the law enforcement for what they do — officers for what they do.  Remember, he was speaking in front of Black law enforcement who are in — in Orlando.  And he wanted to make that — take the time to thank them.

Because if you think about it, we ask our law enforcement to go out there and protect our streets.  On January 6th in 2020 [2021], we asked law enforcement — or they had to protect our democracy.

And so, you know, the former President had a choice to make.  The choice was: Do you stand on — stand on the side of our law enforcement, or do you stand on the side of a mob?  And we know his actions speak for himself, where he — where the former President stood.

I do want to — just want to pull out a little bit of what he said, because this is incredibly powerful, what the President said.

So, “The Capitol Police, the D.C. Metro Police, and the law enforcement were attacked and assaulted.”  They were — they were speared.  They were sprayed.  They were stomped on.  They were brutalized, and lives were lost.

And after “three hours, the defeated former president of the United States watched it happen.  As he sat in the comfort of his private dining room next to the Oval Office, brave law enforcement were subjected to medieval hell for three hours.” 

And so that’s what the President wanted to make sure that he put out there.

“Dripping in blood.  Surrounded by carnage.  Face to face with [a] crazed mob that believed the lies of the defeated president.”  So he bears — the former president bears responsible — responsibility for that.

And also, in the speech, I want to add, is that you heard the President also make a contrast with the two senators in Florida.

You know, we talk about — you hear peo- — you hear politicians talk about how they’re on the side of law enforcement officers, but then you have these two senators in Florida who do the complete opposite of that.  And a lot of that — if you look at the American Rescue Plan, which no Republican voted for, it had $350 billion to go to states to really help states with public safety. 

And so that’s the contrast the President wanted to make.  And he wanted to make sure he did that in front of the law enforcement officers who were there.

Q    And some of the details he’s drawing upon there echo what we have heard in the January 6th Committee’s hearings.  Has the President also had any sort of briefings from Justice Department officials about the state of any investigations they might be undertaking?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as we say — as we’ve said many times here, as the President has said: The Department of Justice is an independent, you know, agency, especially as it comes to legal — legal decisions and issues.  So he leaves that on the Department of Justice.  That’s not something that we’re going to comment —

Q    So he hasn’t asked for updates on what their investigation —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, they are — they are — they are independent when it comes to legal matters, and we leave that to them.

Q    And, Karine, follow-up on President Trump?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead.  I promised that I would get back to you.

Q    Yeah.  So, as you know, the former President is giving a speech tomorrow here in D.C. — his first public speech in D.C. since he left office.  I’m just wondering if the White House is tracking that, listening to some of his policy recommendations, especially since, as you know, a lot of Americans might — might side with — with the former President and feel, you know, kinship with him or agree with his policy recommendations.  Are you guys keeping an eye on it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So it’s not something that I’m tracking or we’re tracking here.  I don’t know what he’s coming to talk about.  I guess we’ll see when he gets here tomorrow.

Q    Yes, I wanted to ask about the as yet unannounced Pelosi visit to Taiwan.  I know the President had said that the, quote, “military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”  Can you say exactly what is the fear, what is the concern?  What would China potentially do if she did travel there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, again, I — I’m — you know, I don’t have more to say beyond even what the President said last week.  I laid out that the administration routinely provides a member of Congress with information and context of potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations.

But, again, this is a decision for members of Congress to make.  From what I understand, and what I’m sure you all have seen, there’s not been an announcement yet.  So we — I’m not going to get ahead of her own schedule.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, two questions.  One, just following up on what you said about the National Bureau of Economic Research, they also did not declare it a recession in 2008 until December.  That’s 12 months after the recession had already been in place in the U.S. economy.

But based on what the President said earlier, have his economic advisors told him they also don’t think a recession is likely?  And what is exactly the White House’s definition of a recession?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, we don’t — we don’t — I’m not going to define it from here.  I’m just going to leave it to the NBER, as — as we have stated, and how they define recension [sic] — recession.

Q    Okay, so you won’t declare it one until they have declared it one.  Is that what you’re saying?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just saying that we’re just not going to define it.  We use the indicators that the NBER, the National Bureau of Economic Research, have used.  We’ve mentioned that a few times.

But going to your question about how sometimes it’s late:  Look, I think the — what we’re — not even “I think”; what — the point that we’re trying to make here is that we have a strong labor market, which you don’t normally see in a recession.  That is very uncommon to see that.  When you see an average of 400,000 jobs created per month, when you see an unemployment at 3.6, which is historical, that does not — that does not define a recession.

And so that’s what we point you to, that’s what we’re looking at — is how the economy is currently in this moment.  And the reason why is because of the work that this President has done, because of the American Rescue Plan and turning back on an economy that was in crisis when he walked in, when 20 million people were — were collecting unemployment insur- — benefit insurance.  And now we have a historic — historic job — job creation.

And so that is important.  And let’s not forget about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that — as well, that has helped create jobs.

Q    Okay.  I just want to be clear though: So, we’re not going to hear the White House say, if there is a recession, that there is one until the National Bureau of Economic Research has declared it one?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  What I’m saying is that the definition that — the technical definition — and Secretary Yellen said this yesterday on the — on “Meet the Press” — is the National Bureau of Economic Research that looks at a broad range of data in deciding whether or not there is a recession.  And most of that data they look at right now continues to be strong.

So who — that’s who we look at.  I’m not going to get into a hypothetical right now.  We don’t — we don’t do that.  But we’re using that as — as, clearly, an indicator and wh- — and they lay out how they get to that — how they get to that definition.

Q    Okay.  And my last one, quickly, on Taiwan: Does the House Speaker have the President’s blessing to go to Taiwan?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not — I’m not — that’s another hyp- — hypothetical, right?  I’m not going to get ahead of Speaker Pelosi.  This — again, I’ve laid out how we have, from time to time, given advice on the geopolitical situation, on national security issues for potential of any trip that a member of Congress takes.

I don’t want to get ahead of her.  I — you know, from what I understand, there has not been a trip announced at this time.

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Just a quick one on COVID funding.  Does the White House want to see Democrats put COVID funding into a reconciliation package?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, the negotiations right now are happening in — in Congress.  They are — been leading that process. 

What I can tell you is that when you look at this — really, the historic nature of reconciliation, when you look at the price — the drug price component, the big — how Big Pharma, for the past decades, have not al- — have — have not really allowed Medicare to negotiate lowering costs and the fight that many congressional members have fought for decades, the fight that this President has had in making sure that we’re able to do that — when this happens, this will mean a lot.  This would be a big deal for seniors who are dealing with chronic illnesses, bringing that lower — lowering costs for the American people, and also the ACA provisions.

All of these things are incredibly important for the American people.  And — and so that’s going to be our focus.  I know that it has support from Democrats in the Senate.  And so that’s — we’re going to allow — allow the Senate to move forward and — and move forward with what that’s going to look like.

Q    When you say “it has support,” you mean putting COVID funding into this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, meaning, like, what I just laid out —

Q    Oh, okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — has support from Congress.

Q    So there’s no path forward — or there doesn’t seem to be a clear path on getting the funding that you asked for six months ago, four months ago on vaccines and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, the — well, let’s — well, let’s talk about that separately.  That $22 billion is incredibly important.  We continue to have conversation with Congress on getting that done.  We need that.  We cannot — the U.S. cannot be behind.  We’ve already made difficult decisions on — on COVID.  And so we’re going to continue to have those conversations.

You know, when it comes to reconciliation, we know what that looks like, we know what — thus far, what’s going to be in that package, which the President supports and wants to see. 

We think having the prescription drugs and lowering the cost for seniors, make sure that Medicare are — is able to — be able to have — have that ability to lower those costs is important.  And it’s going to mean a lot to a lot of families.  And this is incredibly personal to the President.

Q    So he’s not pushing to put that 22 be separate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re having a conversation with Congress about that — about the $22 billion.  Right now, we’re focusing on what’s in the reconciliation package right now.  And that is something the President supports.

Go ahead.

Q    President Biden said he expects to perhaps speak with President Xi this week.  I’m wondering if there’s anything you can tell us about what he plans to raise in that call and what topics will or will not dominate that conversation.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m not going to get ahead of the President.  I know he just spoke to — spoke about this.  I’m not going to add more to what he said.

You know, you’ve heard me say this, you’ve heard us say this before: is that we have kept the lines of communication open with China, having staff-to-staff conversation. 

The President spoke to, as you know, President Xi back in March.  I’m just not going to get ahead of the President or any announcement of a confirmation of a call.

Q    Do you think tariffs are going to come up or play a role in that conversation?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m not going to lay out the agenda of what that — what — what potentially will happen on that call.

Q    And just on the recession thing, and not to belabor the point, but you made it — you said that journalists use the phrase “technical recession.”  I mean, I have notes from the last few days from Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Fitch all using that phrase.  Those aren’t, you know, rabble-rousing journalists.  And so I’m wondering, is that simply a phrase we won’t hear from the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look —

Q    On Thursday, if it’s a negative GDP, what will you call that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a top — a top official — I’ll give you one — a top official at Goldman Sachs recently said it would be “historically unusual” for the labor market to be as strong as it is at present, even at the very onset of a recession.

So, you know, what we are seeing, if you look at the indicators, if you look at the — which one of them is the — is the strong labor market, if you look at where the unemployment is nationally, and also in those 21 states that I just laid out — 3 percent or less — that is — those are historic figures.  Those — they’re not what we would — what we would call a recession, just according to how it is defined.

If you look at consumer spending, if you look at what businesses and households are investing in, you continue to see the resilience.  And it is consistent — it is not consistent with a recession.  And so that’s what — the indicators that we’re looking at. 

And I will add, Brian Deese will be in the briefing room tomorrow, so you guys will all have an opportunity to ask these very same questions of him.  He is our, as you all know, our National Economic Council — he’s a — he’s the director of the National Economic Council.  So you’ll have the opportunity to ask him these very same questions.

Q    Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Oh, okay.  Well, thank you, guys.  See you tomorrow.

Q    Karine, do you have any reaction to the Russian Foreign Minister who is on an African tour?  He was in Egypt yesterday, the Congo- Brazzaville today, Uganda tomorrow, and —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, I’ll address that very quickly. 

So, look, the Russian Federation knows its horrific war against Ukraine has caused the majority of the international community to see it as a pariah state.  You’ve heard us say this before. 

Russia has created a global food crisis by preventing grain exports.  Its bombing of the Odessa Port is a violation of its own agreements.

Foreign Minister Lavrov, as you just stated, is attempting to engage with countries to try to stem the onslaught of outrage against Russia, especially by misrepresenting Russia’s role in causing a surge in global food insecurity.

I’ll see you guys tomorrow.  Thank you. 5:32 P.M. EDT