Biden celebrates progress against the virus, but admits the hurdles



WASHINGTON – On the day that President Biden had long awaited as a milestone in the fight against the coronavirus, the White House held a celebration to commemorate the July 4th holiday and to announce the government’s progress in overcoming the pandemic.

In gathering about 1,000 people for the largest planned event of Mr Biden’s presidency, the White House was forced to walk a fine line in trying to signal progress towards normalcy while recognizing the dangers of a pandemic, which continues to challenge hundreds of people to live a day.

The president continued this strategy on Sunday, comparing the nation’s struggle for independence to the fight against the coronavirus.

“Two hundred and forty-five years ago we declared our independence from a distant king,” he said during the event. “Today we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the fight against Covid-19 is over. We still have a lot to do. “

For months, the White House had circled July 4th as a breakthrough in the pandemic, the point at which many restrictions could be lifted if the country hits ambitious vaccination targets.

In the months following his election, Mr. Biden offered cautious hope that small groups could congregate by the holiday weekend while continuing to adhere to familiar safety guidelines.

But as vaccination rates rose steadily over the spring, the White House became more confident, describing the holiday as the start of a “summer of freedom” and the Sunday event as a celebration of not only Independence Day but also “Independence from Covid” . -19. “

In addition to Mr. Biden’s speech, the celebration included a barbecue in honor of the attendees – a group of first responders, key workers, and service workers, almost all of whom were vaccinated and masked-free according to guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May. Guests mingled on the South Lawn and enjoyed pulled pork and chicken while a live band played throughout the evening.

In his remarks, the president reflected on the more than 600,000 Americans who have died from the virus in the past 16 months.

“This is a difficult day for those who have lost a loved one,” said Mr. Biden. “Every day I carry a card with my schedule in my pocket. On the back of this schedule, on this card, I have the number of Americans who have lost their lives to Covid. “

But the president also turned to the present, begging unvaccinated Americans to get injections. “That’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” he said.

Mr Biden thanked key workers and military families whose work during the pandemic helped reduce new cases and deaths by more than 90 percent from their January peak. They “became the light to see us through the darkness,” he said.

Still, the Biden administration has had to admit in recent weeks that there are many challenges ahead, and the president was careful to remind the crowd several times of the threat the pandemic still poses.

While the White House once set July 4th as the date when at least 70 percent of adults would be at least partially vaccinated, officials admitted last month that they would almost certainly miss that target as vaccination rates peaked at April has fallen.

And while 20 states, Washington, DC, and two territories passed the 70 percent mark last week, the country’s overall progress has slowed significantly, with now an average of about a million doses per week. According to the New York Times, about 67 percent of adults had received at least one injection on Sunday.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has also raised concerns among public health officials, who fear that new outbreaks could occur in parts of the country where vaccination rates have remained comparatively low, and that the variant could mutate to that extent vaccinated, Americans remain vulnerable.

While the pageantry at the White House was a demonstration of normalcy that seemed far from likely at the start of Mr Biden’s tenure, the occasion was marked by a reluctance seldom seen under the previous administration.

Even as new cases soared to a summer high last year, President Donald J. Trump hosted 35-minute fireworks and military flyovers on the National Mall, against the will of Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who urged people to do so do not participate. This year’s fireworks show will be half as long, and Ms. Bowser has welcomed guests to town, encouraged by advances on vaccines.

Under Mr Trump, the White House held other large gatherings well before vaccines were approved, including two to celebrate the nomination and endorsement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, at which he and several other attendees were believed to have been exposed and infected.

For Mr Biden, this year’s celebrations seemed choreographed to signal that Americans could enjoy some level of normalcy in getting together, although he and his own health officials continued to emphasize the importance of maintaining momentum with vaccines.

In the days leading up to the event, the President carefully reiterated that, despite vaccination efforts, the United States has an average of hundreds of Covid-19 deaths every day. He urged Americans not to be complacent.

“I’m not worried that there will be a major outbreak – in other words, that we will have another epidemic across the country,” Biden told reporters on Friday. “But I worry that human lives will be lost.”

But despite the recent setbacks in his administration’s goals, the president seemed ready to embrace the moment.

“Today, although the virus has not been defeated, we know the following: it no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation,” Biden told the crowd on Sunday. “And it is in our power to make sure it never happens again.”


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.