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Biden says women dropping out of workforce, closed schools are "national emergency"

Biden calls COVID "national emergency"
Biden says women dropping out of workforce, closed schools are "national emergency" 04:50

President Biden said the exodus of millions of women from the labor force and the closing of schools —along with the mental health issues for children that could arise — during the COVID-19 pandemic constitute a "national emergency."  

"CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell spoke to Mr. Biden in the first network news interview he has given since his inauguration.

"It is a national emergency. It genuinely is a national emergency," Mr. Biden said. Nearly 3 million women have left the workforce over the past year.

The president said he and his staff realized the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic was "even more dire than we thought" once they entered the White House. 

Joe Biden — Norah O'Donnell
President Biden seen with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell. CBS News

"We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available," Mr. Biden said. "And didn't turn out to be the case. So that's why we've ramped up every way we can."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mr. Biden's chief medical adviser and the top infectious disease doctor in the country, has said that to get herd immunity, 75% of Americans have to be vaccinated. At the current rate of 1.3 million vaccines a day, CBS News has calculated 75% of Americans won't be vaccinated until the end of 2021.

"We can't wait that long," Mr. Biden said. 

In an example of the ramp-up, Mr. Biden said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told him the administration could use all 32 stadiums as vaccination sites.

"Are you going to use them, NFL stadiums to vaccinate?" O'Donnell asked. 

"Absolutely we will," Mr. Biden said. "And, I mean, let me put it this way — I tell my team they're available and I believe we'll use them. Look, it was one thing if we had enough vaccine, which we didn't. So we're pushing as hard as we can to get more vaccine manufactured."

"You're president of the United States, commander in chief. Can you do something in terms of going to Moderna, going to Pfizer, saying, we need more production?" O'Donnell asked. 

"Yes. I think, because we've already done it," Mr. Biden said. "But the idea that this can be done and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of next — this summer, is very difficult."

Mr. Biden agreed with O'Donnell that there is a mental health emergency with children out of school.

 "Do you think it's time for schools to reopen?" O'Donnell asked. 

"I think it's time for schools to reopen safely. Safely," Mr. Biden said. "You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked. Our CDC commissioner is going to be coming out with science-based judgment, within I think as early as Wednesday as to lay out what the minimum requirements are."

On Mr. Biden's first day in office, he signed an executive order to prioritize reopening schools within the first 100 days in office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release school reopening guidance this week. 

"Among the things that we need to do to make sure that schools are safe is to make sure that the community spread of this disease is down and that means it's all of our responsibility to work to get our children back to school safely and our teachers back to school safely," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Friday.

Watch Part 1 of Norah O'Donnell's interview with President Biden: Biden says "no need" for Trump to still receive intel briefings

Watch Part 2 of Norah O'Donnell's interview with President Biden: Biden says son Hunter's book "gave me hope"

Watch Part 3 of Norah O'Donnell's interview with President Biden: Biden says U.S. won't lift sanctions until Iran halts uranium enrichment

Watch Part 5 of Norah O'Donnell's interview with President Biden: Biden weighs in on Brady vs. Mahomes

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