One year after the nation nearly stopped coronavirus, President Joe Biden used his first prime-time address Thursday night to announce his plan to make all adults vaccinated on May 1 and “start marking our independence from this virus” on July 4. offered the Americans new hope and appealed again for their help.
Speaking in the White House’s East Room, Biden announced that they are moving to speed up vaccinations, including raising qualifications, deploying another 4,000 active troops to support vaccination efforts and allowing more people – such as medical students, veterinarians and dentists – to deliver shots.
He is also targeting more doses at about 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 pharmacies to make it easier for people to be vaccinated closer to home.
His goal: to let Americans gather at least in small groups for the Fourth of July and “make this Independence Day really special.”
Biden marked a year since the pandemic began killing more than 530,000 Americans and disrupting the lives of countless more.
“Even though it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” Biden said, calling the past year “a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”
Earlier on Thursday, Biden signed a $ 1.9 trillion aid package that he said would help defeat the virus, get the economy back on track and provide immediate assistance to Americans in need. Some direct checks may begin arriving this weekend.
“This historic piece of legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.
Most noticeable to many Americans are regulations that provide up to $ 1,400 in direct benefits and extend $ 300 per week unemployment benefits until early September. In addition, next year’s increased tax credits for children, childcare and family leave – some of them credits that Democrats have shown they want to make permanent – include expenses for tenants, feeding programs and people’s electricity bills.
In his address on Thursday evening, Biden said that as vaccine supply continues to increase, he will target states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by 1 May. The United States expects enough doses to be given to the 255 million adults by the end of that month, but the process of actually administering these doses takes time.
Biden said his administration is launching a nationwide website to help people find doses and says it would address frustrations so it would not “search more day and night for a meeting.”
Even when he offered optimism, Biden made it clear that the July 4 schedule only applied to smaller gatherings, not larger ones, and required cooperation from Americans to continue wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and following federal guidelines designed to slow the spread of viruses in the short term. term. He also urged them to roll up their sleeves to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
This is “not the time not to stick to the rules,” Biden said, warning of the potential for setbacks just as the nation is about to defeat the virus. “I need you, the American people,” he added. “I need you. I need every American to do his part.”
The House finally gave congressional approval to the sweeping package with an almost party line 220-211 vote on Wednesday, seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate approved the bill. Republicans in both houses opposed the legislation unanimously, characterizing it as bloated, full of liberal policies and regardless of the signs that the crises are easing.
Biden originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House sooner than expected.
“We want to leave as soon as possible,” Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted.
The registered bill came last night – so @POTUS signs it today – we want to go as soon as possible. We will hold our celebration of the signing on Friday, as planned, with congress leaders! https://t.co/4Z1N9WQroN
– Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) March 11, 2021
Biden’s first prime-time speech was “a great moment,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian and Rice University professor. “He needs to win hearts and minds in order for people to stay masked and vaccinated, but also to realize that the federal government has not forgotten you after the past year.”
Biden’s evening remarks in the East Room were central to a central week for the president as he tackles the crucial challenge of his term: shepherding the nation through the double public health and economic storms caused by the virus.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released initial guidance on how vaccinated people can resume certain normal activities. On Wednesday, Congress approved the president’s $ 1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which aims to alleviate the virus’ economic impact on tens of millions of people. And the nation was about to administer its 100 million dose of vaccine as soon as Thursday.
Almost exactly one year ago, President Donald Trump spoke to the nation to mark the WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic. He announced restrictions and urged Americans to practice good hygiene but expressed some concern about the impending disaster. Trump, it was later revealed, admitted that he had deliberately “played down” the threat of the virus.
For Biden, who has promised to level up with the American public after Trump’s viral language, it is imperative to find the right balance “between optimism and sadness,” says Princeton history professor and presidential researcher Julian Zelizer.
“In general, the country likes optimism, and right now they are desperate for optimism, but you can not risk a ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment,” he said, warning of premature declaration that the threat has been overcome.