President Joe Biden set July 4 as the goal for a return to relative normalcy during his one-year COVID anniversary address Thursday night.
In his first prime time address since taking office, Biden told viewers that they will be able to gather with family and friends on July 4, provided Americans seek out the COVID vaccine as soon as they are eligible.
“I promise I will do everything in my power. I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part,” he said. “That’s not hyperbole, I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn, and when you can find an opportunity. Help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well. Because here’s the point: if we do all of this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance of you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.”
Biden added that the gatherings “will make this Independence Day truly special” and would “not only mark our independence as a nation, but mark our independence from this virus.”
While he celebrated the possibility of small outdoor gatherings, the president was careful to stipulate that American life will not be totally returned normal, pointing out that mask-wearing and social distancing will still be required over the summer, regardless of vaccination rates.
“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,” he added. “That 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.”
Biden also announced that he would direct every state to make the vaccine available to all adults by May 1, eliminating the patchwork of eligibility requirements that characterizes the current vaccination regime in many jurisdictions. White House aides told the New York Times that the elimination of eligibility requirements reflected Biden’s confidence that there would soon be enough vaccines available for all American adults.
The White House will also be rolling out a website to direct Americans to their nearest vaccination site by May 1, Biden announced.
The address was delivered hours after Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill into law. The bill contains $1,400 checks for individuals making less than $75,000 a year, while married couples making $150,000 or less will receive two checks. Payments are phased out for individuals making $80,000 and married couples making $160,000.