Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing ( Photo by Cameron Smith)

This Tuesday at the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks about COVID-19 vaccination rates and President Biden’s crime plan. Delaney Tarr reports on the key takeaways from Press Briefing.

1. Biden’s vision for crime and police

Ahead of Biden’s remarks on crime tomorrow, Psaki spoke on the administration’s vision for crime prevention and police reform in America. She specifically mentioned the increase in crime over the past year and some, with major cities facing increased rates of violent crime. 

Psaki diagnosed the issue as one revolving around gun violence, a key component of Biden’s crime plan. She listed statistics like New York where shooting incidents have jumped 77% since March 2020. 

In April, Biden announced a number of measures to tackle gun violence in America: strengthening regulations on ghost guns, or unregistered guns, stabilizing braces that make firearms more lethal, and investing money in community violence intervention programs and community policing. 

Policing was a key component of the conversation as Biden continues to spotlight the rise of crime in the US. Psaki has previously listed Biden’s goal to “keep police on the beat” by helping local governments and now focuses on Biden’s support for funding community policing efforts. 

Community policing is considered a strategy for policing that revolves around developing relationships with community members. Psaki said that historically the effort has been supported by many groups across the political spectrum. 

Where’s the balance between Biden’s crime effort and police reform vision? The Tampa Dream Defenders were listed as a criminal justice group that has raised concern around Biden “raising the alarm” around crime during negotiations for police reform. 

“He does not feel they are conflicting,” said Psaki of the efforts, “I don’t think you’ve heard from any of the negotiators on the Hill that they feel they are conflicting either.” She named Senator Booker, Senator Scott, and Congresswoman Bass as key legislators around police reform. 

Psaki then reiterated that Biden has never supported defunding the police, and hammered in his support of community policing and police reform. 

Biden will speak further on his vision for crime in the US on Wednesday, June 23rd. 

2. White House falls short of vaccination goal

The White House acknowledged the US will miss its goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by July 4th. Psaki said the administration doesn’t see it as a failure. “We set a bold ambitious goal,” said Psaki, “and we expect to meet it a couple of weeks after July 4.” Psaki added the goal has already been met for adults aged 30 and older. 

Young people in the 18-26 age demographic continue to be the holdout in vaccination rates, and the administration has apparently created a number of plans to “meet them where they are”.

Doctor Anthony Fauci has done Q&As on the popular app TikTok with major influencers, and the CDC has a COVID vaccine chat on WhatsApp targeted towards Spanish-speaking young adults.

Psaki also listed efforts through the private sector, like Microsoft giving away Xboxes to Boys and Girls Clubs and Walgreens offering $25 to vaccine recipients. 

“They lead busy lives,” said Psaki of young people, “We want this to be just a box they can check on their weekend to-do list.” 

Nationally, some states have raised concerns with their lower vaccination rates. Alabama and Louisiana both have below 50% of their population vaccinated, and CDC data ays 13 are falling short of the 70% goal. 

Psaki said the federal government’s goal is to make the vaccine “as accessible as possible”, but getting the vaccine is ultimately up to the individual to decide. 

She then doubled down on nationwide efforts like 24-hour pharmacies, walk-up clinics, and mobile sites. Ultimately, though, Psaki said the efforts are a partnership between the local and federal government. 

The White House looked ahead to their self-imposed deadline. “We’re not going to stop implementing these programs on July 5. We will continue to implement them as we work to get more people in the country vaccinated,” said Psaki.