CNN town hall with President Biden

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:23 AM ET, Thu July 22, 2021
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11:06 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Biden says pandemic is one of unvaccinated individuals

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden addressed the rising number of Covid-19 cases and said that the pandemic is now a concern for those who haven't received a vaccine.

"We have a pandemic for those who haven't gotten the vaccination. It's that basic, that simple," Biden said.

"If you're vaccinated, you're not going to be hospitalized. You're not going to be in an ICU unit. And you are not going to die," President Biden explained.

Biden also discussed vaccine hesitancy and urged people to ask "legitimate questions" so that they can then get answers.

"The question should be asked, answered and people should get vaccinated," he said.

8:19 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Entire audience fully vaccinated for tonight's CNN town hall

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

CNN's Don Lemon made certain to let viewers know that safety and health were of the utmost concern for the evening's town hall with President Biden.

"The President, myself and everyone here in our audience, we are all fully vaccinated," Lemon shared as the live town hall began from Ohio.

Biden's one-hour appearance comes as the nation continues to be impacted by a new strain of the virus, while certain swaths of America simultaneously reject medical experts' vaccine recommendations.

"Virtually all Covid hospitalizations and deaths are now among the unvaccinated," reported Lemon, who noted that Biden is working "to keep the pandemic in check and his goal of an infrastructure deal on track."

8:03 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Here's a look at the latest US Covid-19 case numbers and vaccination efforts

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips, Maegan Vazquez and Madeline Holcombe

CNN's town hall with President Biden just kicked off with a question about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the Biden administration's progress vaccinating the US population these past months, there are now growing concerns surrounding lagging vaccination rates, Covid-19 vaccine disinformation and a rise in cases in some parts of the country.

The country averaged 37,055 new cases a day across a week as of Tuesday — 54% higher than the prior week and more than two and a half times the average recorded about two weeks ago (13,665), according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The more contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, meanwhile, now makes up more than 80% of sequenced samples in the United States, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.

The White House has faced hurdles in figuring out how to successfully address vaccine hesitancy among the American population and has warned that the current pandemic is one of the unvaccinated, who make up the majority of Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Here's a look at the latest vaccination figures published Wednesday by the CDC:

  • 48.8% of the US population is fully vaccinated
  • The current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 252,647 people fully vaccinated per day; 516,441 doses reported administered per day. 
  • This daily average of people becoming fully vaccinated is the lowest it’s been since the end of January, when the US had only been vaccinating for about six weeks.
  • The mid-April peak was seven times higher, with nearly 1.8 million people becoming fully vaccinated each day. 
  • 20 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, DC.
  • Alabama and Mississippi are the only states to have fully vaccinated less than 35% of residents. 
8:00 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

NOW: Biden takes questions at CNN town hall after Republicans block vote on infrastructure bill

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)
(Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden just took the stage in Cincinnati and will face key questions on how his administration will handle some of the most pressing issues facing the country, including the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Tonight's event comes just hours after Senate Republicans blocked a vote to begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. But lawmakers said their negotiations will intensify over the next few days with the goal of trying again to advance the measure by early next week.

After riding high off the passage of the American Rescue Plan in March, the Biden White House has since been zeroed-in on infrastructure as its top legislative priority.

Here's a look at some key topics expected to take center stage tonight:

  • Covid-19 and lagging US vaccination rates
  • Infrastructure and Biden's legislative agenda
  • The economy
  • Cybersecurity
  • The Afghanistan withdrawal and foreign policy

Read more about tonight's town hall here.

7:43 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Some of the major challenges Biden's six-month-old presidency is facing

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez

US President Joe Biden tours the IBEW / NECA Electrical Training Center in Cincinnati, Ohio,  on July 21.
US President Joe Biden tours the IBEW / NECA Electrical Training Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 21. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden is in Ohio today for a CNN town hall on Wednesday as his six-month-old presidency reaches a critical juncture.

A major set of problems is unfurling as he makes his third visit to the state. Covid cases are rising, testament to a vaccination effort that stalled amid waves of disinformation and skepticism. Pent-up demand has caused an uptick in prices, leading to concerns over inflation.

And Biden's much-touted bipartisan infrastructure deal remains in a state of limbo as Republicans and Democrats rush to finalize the plan.

The President was set to depart Washington for Cincinnati around the same time the Senate blocked a vote to start debate on the infrastructure plan, a setback to Biden's attempts at fostering across-the-aisle cooperation. Negotiators say they will continue talking in hopes of striking a deal, but now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer must schedule another vote for next week.

Biden's aides have been working behind-the-scenes to bring the deal to fruition. In theory, it would spend $600 billion repairing roads and bridges and bolstering broadband networks, among other physical infrastructure priorities. A separate $3.5 trillion framework being advanced only by Democrats includes the remainder of Biden's family and jobs agenda, including education, housing and child care.

At the same time, Biden is confronting a troubling rise in Covid cases that has now spread to every state in the country. Driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, nearly all new hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people. But the new surge has already forced some localities to reapply mask mandates.

The set of challenges is familiar territory for first-year presidents, who often confront unforeseen crises just as they are hoping to quickly enact the plans they ran on.

Aside from Covid and the economy, Biden is facing foreign hotspots in Afghanistan, Haiti and Cuba. And border crossings have again spiked, an issue the administration has struggled to contain.

Read more here.

7:33 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

The town hall is taking place in the traditional battleground state of Ohio

CNN's town hall with President Biden will take place in Cincinnati, the hometown of Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, who was one of the senators who signed on to a bipartisan infrastructure deal with the President last month at the White House and has been making the case for the GOP to work with Biden on key legislative priorities.

Portman is a key Republican to watch throughout Biden's first two years in office as he is retiring at the end of 2022 and could be a potential bipartisan dealmaker.

The event will take place in the traditional battleground state of Ohio, which has often been a key bellwether in presidential elections. The state has a Republican governor, Mike DeWine, who has been a key ally in the fight against Covid for Biden and has joined the President in multiple virtual events promoting Covid-19 vaccines.

The President has been traveling around the country in recent months selling his infrastructure proposal, often hitting Midwestern cities in key states and districts that will play a key role in both the 2022 and 2024 elections.

The President has gone to these areas touting his "Blue Collar Blueprint for America," attempting to reach voters who may have swung toward Trump in previous elections but have traditionally voted for Democrats.

7:19 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

5 topics to watch for during tonight's town hall

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Biden is expected to be asked about several pressing issues facing the country during CNN's town hall tonight.

At 8 p.m. ET, the President will join moderator Don Lemon for the hour-long event, which may touch on these five topics:

Covid-19:

  • The evolving state of the pandemic will likely be a key topic during the event. The town hall comes one day after the White House acknowledged there have been prior Covid-19 breakthrough cases among White House staffers in addition to a fully vaccinated official who tested positive for the virus. It also comes after several vaccinated Texas Democratic lawmakers who met with Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for the virus. However, the Vice President has tested negative.
  • Moreover, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the highly contagious Delta variant now makes up more than 80% of sequenced samples in the US.
  • Lastly, the White House has faced hurdles in figuring out how to successfully address vaccine hesitancy and has warned that the current pandemic is one of the unvaccinated, who make up the majority of Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths. Now, the administration faces questions about whether to bring back more preventative measures, whether Americans will need booster vaccines and when international travel will resume.

Infrastructure:

  • Recently, the White House has zeroed-in on infrastructure as its top legislative priority. Senate Republicans blocked a vote on Wednesday to begin debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. But lawmakers said their negotiations will intensify over the next few days with the goal of trying again to advance the measure by early next week. Democrats, meanwhile, are well underway in planning their own infrastructure proposal as part of the reconciliation process.
  • The White House has indicated that the only disagreement among the bipartisan group is pay fors, with discussions about that being ongoing. But keep in mind that disagreements about financing government spending are the reason why every other infrastructure negotiation over the past decade has fallen apart.

The economy:

  • The US economic recovery from the pandemic is underway, but it hasn't returned to pre-pandemic levels, marking a challenge Biden will likely address tonight. He is expected to make an argument similar to the one he made on Monday at the White House, when he argued that recent price increases are temporary. He also said this week that no serious economist is suggesting there's unchecked inflation.
  • Nevertheless, economic anxieties about the Delta variant and inflation are making an impression on investors. This past Monday was the worst day for the Dow since a 943-point drop in late October, and it was the biggest decline this year. The markets, however, have since rallied.
  • Although the economy is recovering, it still needs some work. For example: employers added 850,000 jobs in June, more than economists had expected. But the US economy is still down 6.9 million jobs compared with February 2020, and the unemployment rate inched higher, rising to 5.9% from 5.8% in May.

Cybersecurity:

  • Since Biden took office, cyberattacks have affected major companies and hurt international supply chains — impacting everything from a meat supplier to an IT software vendor to an American oil pipeline.
  • Over the last several months, the White House has urged Russia to take action to stop criminal actors in the country from engaging in cyber attacks. On Monday, the US also launched a new offensive against China, joining a coalition of international allies in accusing China of using "criminal contract hackers" to carry out malicious activities around the world.
  • The White House has stopped short of penalizing Beijing with sanctions or diplomatic expulsions, in stark contrast to how the administration responded to similar behavior by Russia in the past several months. Now, the Biden administration is debating internally whether and how to impose sanctions on China, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Afghanistan withdrawal:

  • Biden announced earlier this month that the military drawdown from Afghanistan would be finished by the end of August. But US intelligence services, military commanders and members of Congress are all warning that the Afghan government won't be able to stand up to the Taliban without the backing of American firepower. The Taliban are already moving rapidly to take over districts in the northern parts of Afghanistan, leading US military commanders to raise the prospect of a civil war once US troops are gone.
  • Nevertheless, the President and his administration have continued to defend the pace of the US withdrawal from America's longest war. But the decision to exit the country has become a pressure point as the Afghans face the increasingly likely potential that the Taliban will overwhelm the current government and retake control of the country. Therefore, Biden may be asked about the state of the withdrawal at tonight's town hall.

Read more about these key topics here.

CNN's Lauren Fox, and Alyssa Kraus, Alex Rogers, Manu Raju, Betsy Klein, Anneken Tappe, Paul R. La Monica, Natasha Bertrand, Kevin Liptak, Jason Hoffman and Brian Fung contributed to this report.

7:21 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine misinformation has emerged as a critical challenge for the Biden administration

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Syringes with doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a drive-thru vaccination site in Pomeroy, Ohio, in March.
Syringes with doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are seen at a drive-thru vaccination site in Pomeroy, Ohio, in March. (Stephen Zenner/Bloomberg/Getty Images/File)

Dena Cranley and Barbara Lynch have a blunt reality check for President Biden: His repeated pleas for vaccinations are going largely unheeded and unheard.

As Biden asked Americans once again on Monday to get vaccinated to slow the resurgence of Covid-19 cases across the country, the two Cincinnati women who agree with his message say he is not the best messenger.

"At the end of the day, people are not going to listen to politicians or the doctors," said Cranley, a leader of First Ladies for Health, a local group fighting vaccine hesitancy.

"They don't trust the politicians or the doctors," added Lynch, who volunteers alongside Cranley in doing outreach to communities of color and faith.

As the Delta variant increasingly rattles nerves from the White House to Wall Street — with the Dow Industrial Average tumbling Monday more than 700 points in the worst one-day decline of the year — the fight against Covid-19 vaccine disinformation has emerged as a critical challenge for the administration.

The frustration was evident in the President's voice on Monday as he implored Americans to get a vaccination — to save the economy and their own health. He hits the six-month mark of his presidency on Tuesday confronting the hard reality that his fight against Covid-19 is suddenly awash in uncertainty.

"We know that our economic recovery hinges on getting the pandemic under control," Biden said. "We have fundamentally changed the course of the pandemic for one that threatens all Americans to a disease that has the most severe impacts on the unvaccinated people in the country. But we can't let up."

In Ohio, where Biden is visiting for a CNN Town Hall at 8 p.m. ET today, the state has fully vaccinated 45.9% of its population, just below the US rate of 48.6%. Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, is slightly higher at 49%.

Cranley and Lynch share the sentiment the President expressed on Monday, when he said: "The only way we put it behind us is if more Americans get vaccinated." Yet even as the Delta variant spreads, both women say the diverse cross-section of unvaccinated people are not heeding — or even hearing — the warning.

Read the full story here.

7:02 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Key things to know about CNN's town hall with Biden

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

The stage is set for Biden's town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The stage is set for Biden's town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Maddie McGarvey for CNN)

President Biden will participate in a CNN town hall today in Cincinnati, Ohio, just over six months after taking office.

The town hall comes as the White House grapples with a new surge in Covid-19 cases, which has led to increasing rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Not to mention, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country in areas with low vaccination rates.

Here's what you need to know about how to watch the town hall:

  • What time is the town hall? It will take place at 8 p.m. ET today.
  • How can I watch it? The one-hour event will stream live on CNN.com's homepage and across mobile devices via CNN's apps for iOS and Android without requiring authentication. It can also be viewed on CNNgo without authentication (at CNN.com/go on your desktop, smartphone, and iPad, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, Chromecast and Roku). Additionally, the special will also be available on demand to subscribers via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms and CNN mobile apps. It will also air on CNN International and CNN Español.
  • Who is moderating the town hall? CNN's Don Lemon will moderate the event.
  • Where is it taking place? The town hall will be held at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Will there be a live audience? A CNN spokesperson said an invitation-only audience will be present at the town hall, and the network will follow all local and state Covid-19 guidance and regulations to ensure a safe event.

CNN's and Alyssa Kraus contributed to this post.