THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m glad to be in Jacksonville. And we’re here — just been talking with the Mayor, the Commissioner, and the Congressman about the good work that’s happening here on the ground. And they have expressed their appreciation for, of course, what we’ve been able to do with the ARP, with our American Rescue Plan, getting more shots in arms, helping out folks.
A lot of our conversation today is also going to be about food insecurity, which we all know to be about hunger in America and the crisis — the hunger crisis in America. So we’ll be talking about that today.
But it’s good to be here. And, of course, you will see that part of the day is to emphasize a number of things, including — look, regardless of who somebody voted for in the last election, we’re all in this together.
Q Madam Vice President, we’re in Florida today. There’s a variant of coronavirus spreading throughout the state. Parts of the state of largely open for business. There’s a spring break issue with people having to abide by curfews. What is the administration’s message to local officials who are just keeping the state open and not, sort of, observing the fact that there’s a pandemic going on?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m here to emphasize the importance of vaccinations and getting the vaccine. You know, when it’s your turn, you got to get it.
And regardless of what we’re talking about in terms of the various — the variants, one thing is for sure: If you get vaccinated when it’s your turn, you are much more likely to avoid contracting COVID, much less having severe symptoms or hospitalization or death. And, in fact, for all of them, we’re talking about it at almost 100 percent avoidance of hospitalization and death.
So the state today, we’ve heard, have lowered the age to 50. That’s a good thing. And we’re going to be here visiting a vaccination site, saying, “Look, everybody who — when it’s your turn, go and get vaccinated.” And that’s the message of the day, and that should be the message every day, including reminding folks to wear a mask and wash their hands and social distance.
These are very specific and effective ways that we can avoid whatever the variant is.
Q Do you plan to visit the border?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not today. (Laughter.) But I have before, and I’m sure I will again.
Q On the border, there’s obviously a lot of political pressure coming from Republicans in particular, on this administration, but also some of the Democrats who represent some of those border districts. What can the administration do, at least in the short term, to kind of assure people that it’s really taking steps to make sure that the people — children in particular — are being treated humanely, but also that you’re sort of, you know, thinking about the bigger picture weeks and months head?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I mean, first of all, we were left with a very challenging situation. And, you know, let me start by saying I think we all agree — and Secretary Mayorkas said it a number of times this weekend — let’s get these kids out of CBP custody, get them into HHS custody.
We’ve got to treat this issue in a way that is reflective of our values as Americans and do it in a way that is fair and is humane. And — but we have to meet the moment. And there’s a lot of work going into that, and we expect to have success, but it’s going to take a lot of work.
I mean, again, we were presented, when we came in, with some serious challenges. So —