March 11, 2021 -- President Joe Biden on Thursday lamented the loss the country has faced over the past year of the coronavirus pandemic, but vowed that with the help of all Americans, normality may return this summer.
Biden, in his first primetime address as president, said every U.S. adult should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine beginning May 1 and that it's possible family and friends may be able to safely gather together in small groups by July 4.
“A year ago we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked,” Biden said on the day he signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. “While it was different for everyone, we all lost something. A collective something, a collective sacrifice.”
The toll has been terrible, he said.
“Frontline and essential workers risking their lives and sometimes losing them to rescue others,” Biden said. “Researchers and scientists racing to find a vaccine. And so many of you, as [Ernest] Hemingway wrote, 'being strong in all the broken places.'”
And it isn't just the deaths people mourn, he said -- we have also lost physical connection.
“We are fundamentally a people who want to be with others -- to talk, to laugh, to hug, to hold one another, but this virus has kept us apart,” he said. “Grandparents haven't seen their children or grandchildren, parents haven't seen their kids, kids haven't seen their friends. The things we used to do that always filled us with joy have become things we couldn't do, and it broke our hearts.”
That should soon change, he said.
“We know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth, follow the science, work together,” he said.
To that end, Biden reiterated his earlier pledge that the country will have enough vaccine doses “for all adults in America by the end of May. That's months ahead of schedule.”
He said he will use active duty military, FEMA, retired doctors, nurses, and administrators and a host of other health care professionals, including dentists, to administer vaccines. In addition, the government will create more places to get the shots, including 10,000 drugstores, 600 federal vaccine centers, as well as mobile clinics and pop-up clinics and promised to get vaccines to “underserved” communities.
Over the next few months, the administration will continue to send vaccine doses to community health centers, vaccination sites, and pharmacies, with a focus on the most vulnerable Americans.
But the president also said he will “direct” states, tribes, and U.S. territories to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.
“That doesn't mean everyone is going to have that shot immediately,” he said, without mentioning that states themselves set priorities for who can get vaccinated and when.
“And to do this, were going to go from a million shots a day ... to maintaining our current pace of 2 million shots a day, outpacing the rest of the world,” he said.
He also promised a federal website to help people find vaccines and make appointments. “No more searching day or night,” he said.
The big goal, he said, is to have some level of normalcy by July 4.
“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,” he said. “I need every American to do their part. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and you can find an opportunity. I need you to help your family and neighbors.
“If we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your family, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or park and celebrate Independence Day.”
He was careful to mention that he's not promising large group gatherings, but small groups.
“That will make this Independence Day truly something special,” he said.