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U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Headquarters
Rockville, Maryland

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Secretary Azar.  Thank you for your great leadership, and thank you for that inspiring story about your grandfather.  And I just can’t help but think what a great country this is, that, in just two short generations, your family went from Ellis Island and meeting a member of the U.S. Public Health Service to being the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Join me in thanking Secretary Azar, would you please?  (Applause.)  What a great story.  (Inaudible.)

And I want to thank someone, who has become a great friend of mine and someone who I deeply admire, and I’d invite all of the members of this great Commissioned Corps to give a big round of applause for your leader and our friend, Admiral Brett Giroir.  Thank you, Admiral Giroir.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

Also, I take more than a little credit because he came from Indiana with me.  (Laughter.)  And he is — he has just become a friend to every family in America and a compelling voice in a challenging time in the life of our nation.  Join me in thanking Surgeon General Jerome Adams.  (Applause.)

I’m also honored to be here with the Deputy Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Erica Schwartz; and Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams; and Rear Admiral Susan Orsega.  Give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much for your great leadership, Admiral.

And let me say: It is an honor to be with all of you.  And I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come out — to come out to say thanks.  Before I do that, allow me to bring to bring thanks from someone else — someone who, along with me, has come to so admire the men and women of the U.S. Public Health Service in this challenging time in the life of our nation and literally every day of our service over the last three and a half years.  I bring greetings and gratitude from the 45th President of the United States, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

But I couldn’t miss the opportunity, on the President’s behalf, simply to come by and pay a debt of gratitude to each and every one of you.  It is remarkable for me to think that you are —

AUDIENCE:  Corps strong!

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Let me try that again.  You are —

AUDIENCE:  Corps strong!

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And we’ve seen it every day.  We really have.  And just — just please accept the thanks of your President, your Vice President, but of all of the American people.

And to all the members of the Commissioned Corps that are looking on, I just want you to know how comforting and confident the American people have felt — whether they pulled up to a drive-through test site, whether they’ve arrived at a hospital, whether they’ve arrived at a temporary health facility — to walk in and to see that blue uniform.  And I want to thank you for that.

I also want to thank your families.  I mean, I know, over the last four months, Admiral Giroir and I have been working at the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and I’m — I’m very much aware by his — his regular accounts of, literally, the 24-7 service.  So would you join me in thanking your families for the sacrifices that they’ve made?  (Applause.)  We know you serve — you serve as families as you serve the nation, and we’re truly grateful to each and every one of them.

You know, from the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump directed us to mobilize a whole-of-government response, and that included scaling testing from an old system based in CDC and state laboratories to testing now that is now more than 30 million Americans — 500,000 to 600,000 tests per day.  It meant been scaling supplies all across the country.  And working with each one of you, we’ve delivered literally billions of supplies and coordinated the delivery of billions of masks and gowns and tens of thousands of ventilators all across the United States.

We’ve also worked with each and every one of you as we’ve provided critical support.  You know, when we in — in the days, a few short months ago, when we saw the pandemic rising in the Greater New York City area, we saw the stress on hospital systems in New York; in New Jersey; in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Michigan.  We worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, we built those temporary facilities, and we sent in the cavalry.  And in America, when it comes to healthcare, the cavalry is the U.S. Public Health Service, and you did a great job.  (Applause.)

You literally have been there every step of the way.  And as we gather today, seeing cases rising across the southern half of this country and we see states where the positivity rate is increasing, I know each and every one of you know that, as you are at this very hour, you will continue to play a vital role in meeting this moment with the — making sure every American has access to kind of healthcare that every one of our families deserves.

And so, I just came here, really, to acknowledge your work, and to thank you, and to urge you on — and also to make a very important announcement: Today, as you heard the Secretary announce, that, through the legislation that President Trump signed into law in March, we’ve reestablished the Ready Reserve Corps, and we’re kicking it off today with the U.S. Public Health Service.  (Applause.)

With the new Ready Reserve Corps, we’re going to be in an even better position to deploy the professional men and women of this extraordinary service at the point of the need.  The Ready Reserve Corps will provide trained and ready personnel to fill critical public health needs; support the Commissioned Corps’s capacity to respond to regional, national, or global health emergencies; it’ll preserve clinical care positions by maintaining surge capacity health professionals available for deployment without jeopardizing the service of clinicians in hard-to-fill roles; it will offer an opportunity of service for clinical and public health professionals who cannot commit to fulltime active duty; and will also enable access to highly specialized skillsets that would be (inaudible) for fulltime active duty positions.

The Ready Reserve Corps will simply build on the extraordinary contributions that each of you have made — not just in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but, in recent days, the Ebola response by the United States of America.  And in the months that we just passed through, we know that the Ready Reserve Corp is going to make it possible for the U.S. Public Health Service to respond more quickly, more professionally, and better equip.

But I must tell you that when I think of what you’ve done over the last several months — whether it be administering to the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, repatriating Americans on our military bases, assisting community-based testing sites all across the country — really, the more than 4,500 Commissioned Corps officers have responded to America’s call for help, and more than 1,800 are on active duty deployment even as we speak.  And the Ready Reserve Corps is going to make sure that the U.S. Public Health Service is even more ready for the days that come for the American people.

And so, it’s an honor to be with all of you today for this important announcement.  And I wanted to make it here because the President and I just couldn’t be more grateful to each and every one of you for the work that you’re doing.

And just know that we’re going to continue to stand with you.  We’re going to continue to make sure that the — that the women and men of the U.S. Public Health Service — (laughter) — have what you need, when you need it, as you respond to these challenging times and in all the days ahead — and with this new innovation making it more possible for you to respond even with greater speed and greater efficiency.

So with that, let me just urge you to continue on.  Continue to do the work to which I know — I know you feel called.  You — each one of you are healers.  Each one of you are heroes.

And on behalf of your President and on behalf of a grateful nation, I say to the Commissioned Corps: Stay strong, and a grateful nation will carry you with our prayers, and we will see our way through these challenging times, and we will heal our land.

So thank you very much.  And God bless each and every one of you.  (Applause.)