In his first formal White House press conference, President Joe Biden was asked repeatedly whether or not he will run for president in three years. He was not asked one question about the ongoing pandemic.
Biden started off the press conference with an announcement that his administration was upping its goal to administer 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines within his first 100 days in office, up from a goal of 100 million doses set in December. The rest of the press conference focused on issues including changing the Senate’s rules, voting rights, immigration, and whether Biden saw himself as running for reelection.
During the start of the press conference, Biden told reporters that his administration had been focused on “urgent problems” like COVID-19 and economic fallout from pandemic-related shutdowns. Reporters quickly moved to questions around other issues before asking whether Biden would run for reelection and why he hadn’t quickly set up a reelection campaign like Donald Trump had.
Biden said he expects to run for president again in 2024, and a reporter followed up asking, "So is that a yes that you're running for reelection?"
"Look, I don't know where you guys come from, man," Biden said. "I'm a great respecter of fate. I've never been able to plan four and a half, three and a half years ahead for certain."
Absent from the press conference was any further discussion of the pandemic, even as around 1,000 people a day continue to die of COVID-19, with an average of around 55,000 new cases reported per day over the last week.
While vaccinations climb at a steady pace, with more than 14% of the people in the US now fully vaccinated, health officials are warning that the steep decline in cases seen since January appears to be leveling off. And in several states across the Northeast and the Midwest, new cases seem to be rising once again.
In Michigan, where the rise in new cases is most severe, an alarming surge in hospitalizations and ICU admissions, particularly among younger people who are not yet vaccinated, has spurred criticism of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who loosened restrictions in the state in recent months. More contagious coronavirus variants continue to spread nationwide.
“I continue to be worried about the latest data and the apparent stall we are seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday. “The decisions we make now will determine what the pandemic looks like in the days and weeks ahead.”
“We’ve made such extraordinary progress in the last several weeks, and if we choose to invest in prevention right now, we will ultimately come out of this pandemic faster and with fewer lives lost,” she added.
Governors in states across the country have lifted mask mandates and moved to reopen completely. US health officials have pointed to an alarming rise in cases across Europe to warn against such rapid rollbacks as vaccine rollout continues.
“When you see that leveling off at a high level, there is always a risk of a surge back up — and in fact, unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening in Europe right now,” National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci said on Fox News Sunday. “They thought they were home free and they weren’t and now they are seeing an increase.”