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Biden is true to a key promise: Getting more shots in arms

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Joe Biden speaks about the state of vaccinations as Vice President Kamala Harris in the East Room at the White House,
President Joe Biden speaks about the state of vaccinations as Vice President Kamala Harris in the East Room at the White House, March 18, 2021.Carlos Barria / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The day before Joe Biden became president, we wrote that his most important task was getting as many vaccines into American arms as possible.

So how’s he doing on that front?

Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Overall, nearly 116 million doses have been administered in the United States, and the country today is expected to cross 100 million doses since Biden took office, exceeding the president’s goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days.

And now there are projections that half of the U.S. population will be vaccinated by May.

Yes, you can argue whether Biden’s 100 million-vaccines-in-100 days was a low bar (when he took office, the U.S. was averaging nearly 1 million vaccines a day; now it’s above 2.5 million a day).

Yes, you can also debate which administration is responsible for these numbers.

But the objective has always been clear: to restore faith that government — federal, state and local — can do big things.

“It’s one competency test — with big stakes, but also a clear mission. Make Government Competent Again,” as we wrote back in January.

(By the way, what’s playing out in Europe shows that success on vaccines isn’t necessarily guaranteed.)

And one other thing: The vaccine rollout has been conducted without a lot of drama.

Conservative commentator Dan Bongino might complain that Biden is “boring” and a “disaster for talk radio.”

But those are qualities that could be pluses when it comes to vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans.

More than 500 migrant children in U.S. custody for more than 10 days

Yet demonstrating that government can work not only applies to the challenges that an administration promised to tackle.

It also applies to the unexpected — like what’s taking place along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“More than 500 migrant children had been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days as of Thursday, well past the three-day legal limit, as many border facilities not built to house children have far surpassed their capacity, according to new data obtained by NBC News,” NBC’s Julia Ainsley reports.

“Many of the children are being held in the Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter of the recent migration surge, where as of Thursday more than 4,000 immigrants of all ages were in custody in a sector with facilities meant to hold only 715, according to the data.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

18 percent: The share of health care workers who say they don’t plan to get vaccinated, per a new Washington Post-KFF poll.

29,793,325: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 62,059 more than yesterday morning.)

541,703: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,192 more than yesterday morning.)

115,730,008: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

11.8 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinate.

41: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

The first congressional specials of 2021

NBC’s Ben Kamisar looks at the upcoming special congressional elections in Louisiana's Second and Fifth Districts:

Voters will be voting in Louisiana on Saturday, when the state looks to fill two open House seats — one vacated by the passing of Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (in the Fifth District), and another by former Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond’s decision to join the Biden White House (in the Second District).

Both seats are expected to remain in the hands of the party that won in November. But the biggest question is: How long will it take to find a winner? Remember, the candidates will run on the same ballot, regardless of party, and the Top 2 advance to a runoff, unless someone wins the race outright with the majority of the votes.

Letlow’s widow, Julia, is the heavy favorite in a district Trump won by 30 points (h/t the Daily Kos). She has the backing of folks like Trump, former VP Mike Pence and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Without much of a challenge from within her own party, it’s possible she wraps things up on Saturday.

Richmond’s former district is even more partisan-leaning. Biden, Hillary Clinton and Obama all won it with about 75 percent of the vote. The two frontrunners are state Sen. Troy Carter Sr. (who has Richmond’s endorsement), and the more progressive former state party Chairwoman and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (backed by Stacey Abrams). Also in the mix are Democratic activist Gary Chambers and Republican Claston Bernard, a former Olympian. Considering the district’s massive Democratic lean, a Democrat-on-Democrat runoff may be the most likely outcome.

Becerra wins confirmation, nearly completing Biden’s Cabinet

By a narrow 50-49 vote on Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra to be Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services, per NBC’s Frank Thorp.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the lone GOP vote to confirm Becerra, while Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, missed the vote because she was addressing a family emergency in her home state.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland (confirmed)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (confirmed)

HHS: Xavier Becerra (confirmed)

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (confirmed)

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg (confirmed)

Energy: Jennifer Granholm (confirmed)

Interior: Deb Haaland (confirmed)

Education: Miguel Cardona (confirmed)

Commerce: Gina Raimondo (confirmed)

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge (confirmed)

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough (confirmed)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (confirmed)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan (confirmed)

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (withdrawn)

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai (confirmed)

Chair of Council of Economic Advisers: Cecilia Rouse (confirmed)

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Top diplomats from the U.S. and China met yesterday, and the ensuing public spat wasn’t pretty.

Alex Seitz-Wald delves into why Republicans decided to re-embrace earmarks.

George W. Bush says the Capitol insurrection left him “sick to my stomach.”

The IRS is warning of potential delays to the new child tax credit initiative in the Covid relief bill.

Democrats have rejected a resolution from Kevin McCarthy to kick Eric Swalwell off the Intelligence Committee.

Biden is expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson to head NASA.

Rolling back early and mail-in voting access is a new “center of gravity” on the right, the New York Times writes.

The ex-wife of a top Trump Organization executive has spoken to investigators “multiple times.”

Michelle Obama appeared on “The Tonight Show” last night.