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Biden Offers to Stay After Town Hall to Help Worried Mom

Plus more from the Tuesday night event
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2021 12:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Joe Biden wrapped up his first town hall since becoming president Tuesday night, and the evening got pretty personal for one attendee of the event in Milwaukee, Wis. The woman asked a question about her 19-year-old son, who was diagnosed with pediatric chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at 14 and has the lung function of a 60-year-old. "We've tried all we can to get him a vaccine. I hear of others, who are less vulnerable, getting it based on far less," she said before asking if the president had a plan to make sure the most vulnerable get the vaccine ASAP. "The states make the decisions on who is in what order. I can make recommendations, and for federal programs I can do that as president of the United States. But I can't tell the state, 'You must move such-and-such group of people up,'" Biden explained. "But here's what I'd like to do. If you're willing, I'll stay around after this is over and maybe we can talk a few minutes and see if I can get you some help." More from the evening from CNN, which hosted the event, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

  • An extra-special holiday season? While Biden warned he does not like to offer predictions on the course of the pandemic and doesn't want to "over-promise," he said that by "next Christmas," the US could be in a "very different circumstance."

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  • As for the president before him: "I'm tired of talking about Trump," he said while promising not to interfere in any Justice Department probe of the former POTUS, should one happen. "Look, for four years all that's been in the news is Trump. The next four years I want to make sure all the news is the American people." He also addressed white supremacism, calling it the country's greatest domestic terror threat. But he insisted "the nation is not divided," though there are "fringes on both ends."
  • COVID relief bill: Biden said he is committed to passing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which he says will create 7 million jobs this year.
  • The vaccine: The president urged Americans to get the vaccine as soon as it's available to them, particularly because the more the coronavirus circulates, the more opportunities it has to mutate into vaccine-resistant forms. He also said teachers should be moved up the priority list to get the vaccine, as he spoke to clarify his administration's stance on reopening schools. His aim is to open the majority of K-8 schools five days a week, with some remaining open over the summer to make up for lost instructional time. He said vaccines should be widely available by July.
Politico says the town hall reset Biden's own goalposts on COVID, and notes that many of his promises came with caveats, like the aforementioned school reopening plan, which turns out to be more "aspirational" than it originally seemed. (The town hall wasn't all COVID-related; more on the night here.)

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