White House “stands ready” to boost COVID response in hot spots, Zients says

Washington — Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Sunday that the White House is prepared to surge federal resources to areas where coronavirus infection rates are rising as the Biden administration continues to push unvaccinated Americans to get their shots to fend off the spread of the new Delta variant.

“The federal government stands ready with a whole-of-government effort to work with local officials to increase vaccinations, to provide increased testing and also therapeutics to ensure that people don’t get sick who have contracted the disease,” Zients said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “So we’re going to work with our state and local partners, particularly in those areas of the country with lower vaccination rates to make sure we’re doing everything we can to stop the spread of the disease.”

The number of coronavirus cases has begun to tick up in some areas of the country as states battle outbreaks fueled by the new Delta variant. On Thursday, Zients said the White House would begin mobilizing COVID-19 surge response teams to deploy federal resources and additional testing to communities to expand detection of the coronavirus.

Zients on Sunday stressed that since President Biden assumed the Oval Office, the administration has been partnering with state and local officials to help combat the coronavirus and boost vaccinations in areas with lower rates.

“This is not a political issue. This is public health fighting this pandemic,” he said. “We’ve had a great partnership with governors across the country and with their state and local public health officials. And these surge teams will work hand in hand with local partners.”

In anticipation of the July 4 holiday, Mr. Biden set a goal for 70% of U.S. adults to have received at least one dose of their coronavirus shots. But the White House acknowledged late last month they would miss that goal, as 67% of Americans older than 18 have gotten at least one of their shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To boost vaccination rates, Zients said the administration is working to “meet people where they are,” including by dispatching “trusted messengers” like physicians and health care professionals at the local level to encourage people to get their coronavirus shots.

“We’re going to do everything we can to continue vaccinating millions and millions of Americans each week, because if they’re not protected, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not protected until you are fully vaccinated and until you are fully vaccinated, you need to mask up and follow the public health standards,” he said. “But the great news is so many Americans are now fully vaccinated and can return to life as normal, and that is worthy of celebration.”

Zients added that there has been an increase in vaccine confidence over the past several months, and said the Biden administration is deploying mobile units to harder-to-reach communities as part of efforts to make it easy for unvaccinated Americans to get their shots.

“We are ready to answer people’s questions and give them their first shot,” he said.