- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Governors on Tuesday told President Biden they are doing what they can to root out Americans who remain unvaccinated for COVID-19, offering shots to baseball fans and throwing L.L. Bean gift cards and free fishing licenses at outdoorsmen in Maine.

“We’re calling it, ‘Your shot to get outdoors.’ Oh, it’s corny, I know,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said in a virtual White House meeting among six governors and Mr. Biden, who wants 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one shot by July 4.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said the biggest incentive available is letting folks know what they can do once they are vaccinated.

“We have fully vaccinated persons. We should start acting like it,” he said, prompting Mr. Biden to pledge a swifter rollout of federal guidance for vaccinated persons.

The mix of sweeteners and mobile, targeted measures reflects the new phase of the rollout as the Biden administration pivots from the low-hanging fruit to people who have struggled to find the shots or need to be pulled off the sidelines through incentives or hard facts about the vaccines.

The U.S. is administering an average of 2.1 million shots per day, far below a peak of 3.3 million in mid-April.

The rate is higher than a low of 1.9 million earlier this month, however, prompting hopes that new efforts are bringing people out of the woodwork.

Mr. Biden on Tuesday said Lyft and Uber will offer free rides to people looking to get vaccinated.

The incentive will start within the next two weeks and run through Independence Day — the holiday Mr. Biden pinpointed as the gateway to normalcy after the devastating pandemic.

“To and from — they’ll take you back home,” Mr. Biden said of the ride-sharing companies.

Mr. Biden also said large community colleges will offer the vaccines, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is releasing funds for localities to support vaccinations through community organizations and houses of worship.

Nearly half of the U.S. population — 46% — has received one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than one-third is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 58% of the population over age 18 has received at least one dose of a vaccine, though states say demand is beginning to stall as Mr. Biden pursues his July goal.

Polls suggest rural residents and Republican men, in particular, remain hesitant, though Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said there is no reason to view vaccination as political.

“Get vaccinated so you’re alive to vote against me in the next election,” the Democrat said, sparking chuckles from the Zoom panel.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said her fast-moving state would meet Mr. Biden’s 70% goal or exceed it after her state offered an easy-to-use signup website.

Ms. Mills boasted her state is closing in on Mr. Biden’s goal — Maine has reached 67% of its adults — while Mr. Cox said he is leaning on trusted community voices to get Utah’s relatively young population caught up with states that focused on older folks first.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, meanwhile, said his state is using the National Guard to root out seniors who remain unprotected by bringing the shots to where they live.

“Taking it right into the lobby,” the Republican said. “All they have to do is come down from their rooms.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, another Republican, said the “walk-up stuff” has made a big difference, especially among young people who would rather run into a pop-up site than schedule an appointment.

Minor-league baseball seemed to be a unifying theme for governors on the call. Ms. Mills said her state is giving free Portland Sea Dogs tickets to vaccinated residents, while Mr. Walz planned to visit the St. Paul Saints home opener late Tuesday.

“We’re giving vaccinations to folks going through the gate,” Mr. Walz told Mr. Biden.

Federal health officials are pushing adolescents to get the vaccine, too. People age 12 and older are eligible after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech version for adolescents late Monday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urged parents Tuesday to get their children vaccinated, highlighting the proven benefits of the shots so far. She said daily average hospitalizations and deaths have dropped more than 70% since January, as the rollout widened.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” she told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “However, globally, the pandemic is now more severe than ever.”

U.S. officials are worried that variants pinging around the world could set back the U.S. effort.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said a variant found in India, the B.1.617, is of concern because it is more transmissible but there is no data yet on whether it blunts the impact of treatments or vaccines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said data from Israel and Qatar show messenger-RNA vaccines commonly available in the U.S. — those from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — are just as effective in the real world as they were in clinical trials.

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