Biden warns COVID-19 cases 'could go back up' as variants emerge, despite vaccination progress

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President Biden warned Friday that the rise of COVID-19 variants could lead to a surge in cases in the coming weeks, even as his administration makes progress on its goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in its first 100 days in office.

The president traveled to Texas to survey the state’s progress in the fight against COVID-19 as well as ongoing recovery efforts following a severe winter storm that left millions without power or drinking water. Biden said the vaccination drive is “weeks ahead of schedule”  despite “setbacks from the winter storm,” during his remarks at a mass vaccination center at NRG Stadium in Houston.

“It’s also true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down,” Biden said. “But I need to be honest with you…Cases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge, and it’s not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced and for God’s sake, keep wearing a mask. It’s not a political statement. It’s the patriotic thing to do.”

Biden said medical workers have already administered more than 50 million vaccine shots across the country. He noted that his administration has earmarked $3.8 billion in funds to help states create vaccination centers and ramp up existing facilities.

The president met with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, both Republicans, during his trip to the state.

“There’s nothing partisan about this virus. It’s too long that we’ve allowed this virus to divide us. I met today with Gov. Abbott, Sen Cornyn – conservative Republicans. I’m a Democratic president,” Biden said. “We disagree on plenty of things and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s plenty of things we can work on together. One of them is represented right here today – the effort to speed up vaccinations.”

Earlier Friday, Biden, Abbott and Cornyn stopped at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center, where they received a briefing from Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and other officials who detailed efforts to help Texas recover from the storm. The president also visited a food bank in Houston.

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Biden noted that FEMA has provided millions of gallons of clean drinking water, as well as meals and direct assistance to uninsured homeowners whose homes were damaged by burst pipes during the storm. The Environmental Protection Agency has set up mobile water testing sites throughout Texas.

Biden pledged ongoing federal assistance to Texas residents.

“We will be true partners to help you recover and rebuild from the storms and this pandemic and the economic crisis,” Biden said. “We’re in the long haul.”

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