President Biden on Thursday used his first primetime address to the nation to outline a gradual return to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The speech set a goal for Americans to be able to gather in small groups by the Fourth of July and for all adults to be eligible for vaccine sign-ups by May 1.
“I’m announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults — people 18 and over — eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1,” Biden said. “Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately. But it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1.”
Biden said, repeating a timeframe that he’s outlined for two weeks, “we will have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May. That’s months ahead of schedule.”
The president said that if all goes according to plan, July 4 could see near-normal American festivities.
“By July the Fourth there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said.
“That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together. After this long hard year, it will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
The speech content was teased by the White House press office before Biden began speaking around 8 pm.
“Today, in his first prime time address, President Biden will announce the next phase of our war-time effort to vaccinate the U.S. population, with the goal of getting the nation closer to normal by July 4th, Independence Day,” the White House said.
“The White House COVID-19 Response Team has concluded that our accelerated vaccination efforts will enable prioritized vaccinations to be far enough along by end of April that all eligibility restrictions for vaccinations can be lifted by May 1st.”
Biden’s speech marks the one-year anniversary of widespread coronavirus lockdowns across the US, and comes hours after he signed the $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus bill that Democrats rammed through Congress this week in party-line votes.
The massive bill gives $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, extends a $300 weekly unemployment supplement through Sept. 3 and awards $350 billion to state and local governments.
Biden eulogized the loss of life and lifestyle in his address.
“A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked denials for days, weeks and months. That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress and more loneliness. Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era,” Biden said.
“You lost your job, you closed your business, facing eviction, homelessness, hunger. A loss of control, maybe worst of all, a loss of hope.”
In his address, Biden said that the “fight is far from over,” striking a familiar tone on the pandemic, again urging the need of sacrifice and patience to defeat the virus that has infected nearly 30 million Americans and killed more than 525,000.
Among the initiatives Biden is expected to announce is the deployment of an additional 4,000 US troops to support coronavirus vaccination efforts, from the 2,000 already deployed around the country.
The president will also detail plans to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal vaccination program, expand mobile operations to vaccinate people in communities that have been hard-hit by the virus and double the number of federally run mass vaccination centers.
He’s also vastly expanding who is eligible to administer the shot.
“Tomorrow, the Administration will expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots to include: Dentists, advanced and intermediate Emergency Medical Technicians, Midwives, Optometrists, Paramedics, Physician Assistants, Podiatrists, Respiratory Therapists, and Veterinarians, as well as medical students, nursing students, and other healthcare students in the previously listed professions,” the White House said ahead of the speech.