Speaking at a New York City fundraiser held for two Democratic groups and attended by celebrities including Robert De Niro, the president appeared reassuring on COVID-19, encouraging attendees to get vaccinated.
“By the way, if you haven’t gotten your boosters, get them,” Biden told the about 100 participants, according to Bloomberg.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an updated booster shot targeting omicron, including the more recent subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, earlier this month.
But the White House is reportedly worried Biden’s comments over the weekend could “complicate” the efforts to vaccinate Americans this fall, according to Politico.
“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over,” Biden told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in a segment that aired Sunday.
On Tuesday, Biden appeared to reframe those remarks, saying the U.S. is actually in a much better place to fight COVID-19 this time around.
“It basically is not where it was,” he said of the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
The U.S. has recorded over 379,000 cases and 2,490 deaths in the last seven days as of Tuesday, according to CDC data.
Over 67% of Americans have been fully vaccinated as of Sept. 14, the CDC said.
Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Monday the outbreak’s intensity still remains “unacceptably high.”
The president’s pandemic statement over the weekend was met with unease by his Democratic colleagues, but also drew the attention of Republican lawmakers, who seized on the opportunity to question the need for additional COVID-19 funds.
“If it’s over, then I wouldn’t suspect they need any more money,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told CNN.
Apart from COVID though, Biden also spoke politics at Tuesday’s fundraiser, repeating his warning that the top priority at the moment is the midterm elections in November.
“They retake the House and Senate, we’ll have a different world,” Biden said. “I’ll be spending all my time with a veto pen.”
Democrats are hoping a string of legislative victories the party pulled off this summer, including the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the vulnerable Trump-endorsed Republican candidates running in key states, could help them prevail in the race for the control of the House and Senate that typically favors the out-of-power party.
Also encouraging for Democrats are the fall in gas prices and the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which seems to have energized voters in support of abortion rights.
The president is expected to deliver an address to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning.