ATLANTA - President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are heading to Atlanta Friday to address two major crises in America: the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating violence against Asian Americans.
Biden and Harris originally were coming to Georgia to rally support for their newly-passed COVID relief law, but the shocking shootings at three metro Atlanta spas changed their plans.
Now instead of a political rally celebrating the $1.9 trillion bill, the White House says that Biden and Harris will meet with Asian American State legislators and other community leaders at Emory University to talk about racist rhetoric and actions against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Six of the eight people killed in the shootings at two Atlanta and one Cherokee County spas were Asian-American women. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, nearly 3,800 incidents of racist attacks have been since March 2020.
Responding after the shootings, Biden ordered flags at the White House and on public grounds to be flown at half-mast to honor the eight victims, saying on Twitter that The recent attacks against the community are un-American. They must stop."
The president will also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's main campus in Atlanta to give an update on the distribution of the multiple COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
Biden had previously set a goal of administering 100 million doses of vaccine in his first 100 days. Friday, 59 days into his presidency, the president said that the United States will hit that goal. He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.
The White House also confirmed that the president also will meet with Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams.
The meeting will come as Republicans in the Georgia state General Assembly push several proposals to make it harder to vote in the state. The Biden administration is planning a push in the coming weeks to defend access to the ballot that has come under threat in several states.
After her narrow defeat for governor in 2018, Abrams has been credited with laying the organizational groundwork that helped Democrats capture the state’s two Senate seats and to wrest the state away from then-President Donald Trump last fall.
The turnabout leaves Abrams, who is Black, as perhaps the nation’s most popular and influential Democrat not in elected office. It gives the 47-year-old voting rights advocate considerable momentum for whatever comes next — most likely a rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.