President Joe Biden said on Thursday he would direct US states to make all adults eligible for the coronavirus vaccine by May 1 as he told Americans that he was hoping the country would be able to achieve some kind of normality by the Independence Day holiday on July 4.
In a forceful but sombre speech to mark the first anniversary of the pandemic lockdown, Biden said he was working to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations, hours after signing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill into law.
The July 4 date is a new goal for the president, who has warned Americans of further pain and death from a virus that has already killed more than 530,000 people in the United States, more than any other country in the world. Coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions have cost millions of jobs.
In a recounting of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation, Biden said: “Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era. The last vacation. The last birthday with friends. The last holiday with extended family.
“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” he said, noting that the virus was met with “denials for days, then weeks, then months, that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, more loneliness.”
“Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it might be the most American thing we do,” he said in the speech from the White House offering cautious optimism to a country that, like the rest of the world, has grown weary of the pandemic and its restrictions.
“Biden was saying: ‘Let’s work together. We’re nearing the finish line’,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, DC.
Biden said he was ordering US states, territories and tribes to make all adults eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by May 1. The White House has said it would have enough vaccine supplies to inoculate the population by the end of May. About 10 percent of Americans have so far been fully vaccinated.
The president also announced thousands of more troops would be deployed to help in the vaccination effort and said families and friends should be able to gather again in small groups by July 4, a holiday that many Americans celebrate with outdoor parties, hot dogs and fireworks.
The White House is also seeking to expand the pool of people able to administer shots to include dentists, optometrists, paramedics, veterinarians and medical students.