CNN town hall with President Biden

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:09 a.m. ET, February 17, 2021
12 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:46 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Biden says his administration made a "mistake in the communication" on school reopenings

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Taylor Glascock for CNN
Taylor Glascock for CNN

President Joe Biden tonight clarified confusion on what would qualify as a school reopening, saying that reports that a school could be considered open if it was open just one day per week stemmed from a "mistake in the communication."

Biden was responding to a question from CNN's Anderson Cooper who asked, "your administration had set a goal to open the majority of schools in your first 100 days. You're now saying that means those schools may only be open for at least one day a week." 

Biden then interjected saying there had been an error in how the standard was communicated.

"No, that's not true," he said. "That's what was reported. That's not true. That was a mistake in the communication, but what I'm talking about is I said opening the majority of schools in K through 8th grade because they're the easiest to open, the most needed to be open in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home. "

Biden's incoming administration pledged last year to reopen “the majority of our schools” in the first 100 days, but later White House press secretary Jen Psaki qualified that one day a week would count as a reopening. 

“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50% — open by day 100 of his presidency,” she said. “And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more.”

As of Monday, a total of 28 states plus Washington, DC, had started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Though some states have announced they are prioritizing teachers, vaccine availability remains a concern across the country.

There are 22 states where teachers are still not eligible to receive the vaccine as a specific group — although some educators might fall into the current age group that state is vaccinating.

Some more context: The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday emphasized the need for masking and other mitigation measures in order to reopen schools safely, saying "we have work to do" as teachers, students and parents continue to struggle with Covid-19's impact on education.

The CDC on Friday released its long-awaited guidelines for reopening schools that focus on five key Covid-19 mitigation strategies: the universal and correct wearing of masks; physical distancing; washing hands; cleaning facilities and improving ventilation; and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. Vaccines and testing are not among the "key" strategies the agency lays out, calling them "additional layers" of Covid-19 prevention.

About 89% of children in the US live in a county considered a red zone with high levels of Covid-19 transmission under those new school opening guidelines shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

Watch the moment:

10:08 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

What Biden has said about his vaccination goals 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Taylor Glascock for CNN
Taylor Glascock for CNN

President Biden is being asked about his administration's vaccine plans and timeline for distribution.

Last Thursday, Biden announced that the United States will have enough coronavirus vaccines for 300 million Americans by the end of July, underscoring that he believes his administration has made significant progress given that there wasn't a rollout plan in place under the Trump administration.

"Within three weeks, 'round the clock work with so many people standing behind me and in front of me, we've now purchased enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all Americans, and now we're working to get those vaccines into the arms of millions of people," Biden said during his speech at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Biden used the NIH appearance to announce that the timeline for the previously announced vaccine purchases had been moved up.

Moderna and Pfizer will deliver a total of 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of July, rather than the end of the summer, he said. The companies will also deliver 100 million expected doses by the end of May, rather than the end of June.

The President, echoing claims made by other administration officials since the start of his tenure in office, asserted that the Trump administration "did not have a plan" for vaccine distribution.

In the waning days of the Trump administration, officials announced they would be releasing reserved coronavirus vaccine doses that they had saved for second doses of the vaccine. However, shortly after the announcement, it became clear many of those reserves had already been released last year as production was ramping up.

Thursday's announcement pushes up the Biden administration's previous timeline for vaccinating the US population. Late last month, Biden had said the US was on track to have enough vaccine supply to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or early fall.

The President also said on Thursday that the country was on track to beat its goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses into the arms of Americans in his first 100 days of office.

9:10 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

The CDC recommends these 5 key strategies to reopen schools

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard, Maegan Vazquez and Elizabeth Cohen

President Biden was just asked about school reopenings during the pandemic, one of his administration's key priorities to speed up recovery.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released guidelines for reopening schools that focus on five key Covid-19 mitigation strategies:

  • The universal and correct wearing of masks
  • Physical distancing
  • Washing hands
  • Cleaning facilities and improving ventilation
  • Contact tracing, isolation and quarantine

Vaccines and testing are not among the "key" strategies the agency lays out, calling them "additional layers" of Covid-19 prevention.

But the new recommendations come amid a national debate about when and how to reopen schools, even as fear of spreading coronavirus continues and a push to prioritize teachers for vaccinations grows.

"I want to be clear, with this operational strategy, CDC is not mandating that schools reopen. These recommendations simply provide schools a long-needed roadmap for how to do so safely under different levels of disease in the community," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing on Friday.

"We also know that some schools are already providing in-person instruction and we want them to be able to continue to do this, but we know that some are not following the recommended mitigation strategies we know to work," Walensky said.

"For these schools, we are not mandating that they close; rather, we are providing these recommendations and highlighting the science behind them to help schools create an environment that is safe for schools, students, teachers and staff," she continued.

9:11 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

The town hall kicks off with a question about Covid-19. Here's a look at the latest US figures.

From CNN's Amanda Watts, Christina Maxouris, Eric Levenson and Naomi Thomas

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

The coronavirus pandemic is one of the biggest challenges of the Biden administration as the nation aims to quickly vaccinate the population.

While new cases across the country have decreased, experts worry that if Americans let their guards down — especially now with variants circulating — there could be another surge coming.

Here's a look at the latest coronavirus figures and trends in the US:

  • Deaths: More than 487,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. The nation reported at least 989 deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. This is the lowest single day of deaths since mid to late November.  
  • Cases: The United States continues to lead the world in global cases, with more than 27 million infections. On Monday, the US reported more than 53,800 new Covid-19 infections: its lowest daily case count since October and a vastly different number from those plaguing the country just last month, when infections were topping 200,000 a day.
  • Hospitalizations: There were 65,455 current hospitalizations reported on Monday, according to The Covid Tracking Project data. Yesterday's hospitalizations are less than half of the hospitalizations the US saw at its peak of 132,474, which was reported on Jan. 6. This is the lowest this number has been since Nov. 10, according to CTP data.  
  • Vaccine distribution: More than 55 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's about 72% of all the doses that have been distributed. Nearly 39.7 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 15 million people have been fully vaccinated, CDC data shows (Data published by the CDC may be delayed, and doses may not have been given on the day reported). Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said he thinks the process of widespread vaccinations will likely start in the spring and large portions of the public will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.
9:03 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Biden's first town hall since being sworn in as President has begun

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

CNN's live town hall with President Biden has begun. During tonight's event, Biden is expected to bring the case for his massive coronavirus relief plan to the country.

Biden's first work trip outside Washington since taking office signals his intent on making a public sales pitch for his agenda after spending nearly a month in the shadow of the impeachment proceedings, which ended in acquittal on Saturday.

Aides say the President, known for his outgoing style with voters, has been eager to escape the White House. White House aides insist his $1.9 trillion proposal is popular with a wide swath of Americans, including Republicans, even though Biden has not secured support from any GOP senators for the plan.

By taking his pitch on the road, and fielding questions from Americans, they hope to highlight the relief the plan would bring nearly a year into the pandemic.

8:50 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Biden's live CNN town hall starts soon. Here are key things to know about the event. 

 From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Mark Preston

Taylor Glascock for CNN
Taylor Glascock for CNN

President Biden will answer questions soon at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The event marks Biden's first official trip since being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

The President is expected to field questions on a number of issues as his administration, lawmakers and business leaders debate how to defeat the coronavirus, while trying to bring a sense of normalcy back to people's lives.

Here's what you need to know about Biden's town hall:

  • What time is the town hall? 9 p.m. ET.
  • Who is moderating? CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate.
  • Where is the town hall taking place? The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Will there be a live audience? There will be an invitation-only, socially distanced audience at the town hall and CNN will follow Wisconsin's guidance and regulations to ensure a safe event, a CNN spokesperson said.
  • What topics will be discussed? The town hall comes as the Biden administration continues its push to vaccinate every American, contain the coronavirus pandemic, jumpstart a troubled economy and reopen schools. The pandemic will likely be a key topic of the night. With the conclusion of former President Trump's second impeachment trial, the Democratic-controlled Senate can now turn to working on Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package and confirming the rest of Biden's Cabinet nominees. Senators on Saturday voted that Trump was not guilty of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, but the verdict still amounted to a bipartisan rebuke of the former president with seven Republicans finding him guilty.

8:37 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

Biden has signed more than 50 executive actions so far. Here's what you need to know.

President Biden has signed a flurry of executive orders, actions and memorandums aimed at rapidly addressing the coronavirus pandemic and dismantling many of former President Trump’s policies.

The executive actions Biden took in the first days of his administration included halting funding for the construction of Trump’s border wall, reversing Trump’s travel ban targeting largely Muslim countries, imposing a mask mandate on federal property, ramping up vaccination supplies and requiring international travelers to provide proof of negative Covid-19 tests prior to traveling to the US.

So far, Biden has signed more than 50 executive actions, 19 of which are direct reversals of Trump’s policies. Most of these actions have addressed the novel coronavirus, immigration and equity.

Biden defends the number of executive actions he has issued as necessary to undo what he considers “bad policy” inherited from Trump, especially on immigration.

To date, eight of his 10 actions regarding immigration are reversals of Trump’s policies.

Read about each of Biden’s executive actions below:

From CNN's Christopher Hickey, Curt Merrill, Richard J. Chang, Kate Sullivan, Janie Boschma and Sean O’Key

8:29 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

What the scene is like inside the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee

From CNN's Rebecca Wright and Kate Sullivan

The live CNN town hall with President Biden starts at 9 p.m. ET, and the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is already being set up for the event.

There will be an invitation-only, socially distanced audience at the town hall and CNN will follow Wisconsin's guidance and regulations to ensure a safe event, a CNN spokesperson said. The event will be moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Here's a look inside the theater:

A crew member wipes down the floor before CNN's town hall with President Joe Biden at the Pabst Theater.
A crew member wipes down the floor before CNN's town hall with President Joe Biden at the Pabst Theater. Taylor Glascock for CNN

Masked audience members speak to each other at the Pabst Theater.
Masked audience members speak to each other at the Pabst Theater. Taylor Glascock for CNN

CNN's Anderson Cooper works with show producers before the town hall with President Joe Biden.
CNN's Anderson Cooper works with show producers before the town hall with President Joe Biden. Taylor Glascock for CNN

A cameraman sets up his shot before the town hall.
A cameraman sets up his shot before the town hall. Taylor Glascock for CNN

9:11 p.m. ET, February 16, 2021

This is Biden's main focus tonight, according to the White House

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Taylor Glascock for CNN
Taylor Glascock for CNN

The focus of President Biden’s trip to Milwaukee tonight will be to make sure he is “engaging directly with the people who are impacted by the pandemic," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Tonight's CNN town hall will be moderated by Anderson Cooper. It is Biden's first town hall since taking office.

Psaki refuted a question from reporters that Biden taking his message directly to the American people outside Washington is an admission that he won’t be getting the support of Republicans in DC for his emergency Covid-19 relief bill.

“He certainly wouldn't agree with that,” Psaki said. “The President has not shifted gears, he has been focused every single day, even as others have not — which is understandable — on engaging with partners, stakeholders, people who agree with him, people who don't agree with him, on getting this package through.”

Psaki said this is an opportunity to speak to people in Wisconsin who both agree and don’t with the President, but again recited their own belief that the plan remains popular across the country.

“[That] should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they're going to vote for it or not.”

Asked if these trips are meant to build pressure on members of Congress, Psaki said no, but again flipped the choice on the GOP citing the popularity numbers of the proposal.

“No, his objective is really to make sure he is engaging directly with the people who are impacted by the pandemic or impacted by the economic downturn,” she said. “Obviously Republicans in Congress will have to make their own choice about whether they support the final package, it's still working its way through Congress, but the vast majority of the public supports it, including the vast majority of most members constituents so it's really a question for them.”