A triumphant President Joe Biden all but announced an end to the pandemic in the US on Sunday, celebrating what he called a “heroic” vaccination campaign on the country’s Independence Day holiday.
Speaking at a party on the White House’s South Lawn with more than 1 000 people in attendance, Biden declared that the US had achieved “independence” from the coronavirus, though he cautioned against complacency with more transmissible variants circulating in the country.
“Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together,” Biden said to a cheer from the invited guests. “Today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyses our nation and it’s within our power to make sure it never does so again.”
He appealed for Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots, noting that the country’s battle against the virus had been costly, with more than 603 000 Americans dead. “It’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” Biden said.
Biden’s optimistic mood reflects the plunge in coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths since he took office and a rebound that has made the US economy one of the strongest in the world. The Bureau of Labour Statistics said Friday that more than 850 000 jobs were created in June. And Biden’s White House party followed a trip to Michigan on Saturday where he sought to give a political shot in the arm to Democratic allies ahead of 2022 midterm elections.
“We’re seeing record job creation and record economic growth — the best in four decades and, I might add, the best in the world,” he said.
The White House invited hundreds of essential workers, military families and administration staff members to view the Independence Day fireworks on the South Lawn as Biden touts a government vaccination drive that has helped get at least one dose to 67% of adults in the US.
While Biden missed his goal of reaching 70% by July 4, the US emerged as the best place to be as the world reopens, according to the latest Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking. The survey credits the fast and expansive US vaccine rollout, dominated by highly effective mRNA shots, that stemmed what was once the world’s worst outbreak.
The challenge ahead includes the delta variant of the coronavirus, a more-transmissible mutant that’s spreading across the country, with states from New York to California reporting an increase in positive test rates.
The administration’s struggle to hit its vaccination goal by July 4 has spurred concern that the virus could continue to wreak havoc on significant swaths of the country and the economy.
The party caps a US holiday weekend during which Biden and top administration officials fanned out across the country to attend baseball games, parades, barbeques and other group activities in a coordinated push billed as the “America’s Back Together” tour.
The US vaccination campaign has sharply slowed as demand dries up and the Biden administration grapples with low uptake among young people and conservative states. Cases nationally have started to rise again, driven in part by delta variant outbreaks in more unvaccinated regions.
The pace of shots in the US has fallen off by about two-thirds since April, with about 1.1 million now administered daily, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. At that rate, it will take another five months for 75% of the population to be vaccinated.
Two in 10 Americans say they definitely won’t get a Covid-19 shot, up from 16% in April, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published Sunday.
Biden also sought to convey a message of unity on US ideals entangled in partisan divisions, saying Americans deserve “the right to vote and to have that vote counted,” the right to breathe clean air and protection against discrimination, including over gender.
The tone contrasted to last year’s address by former President Donald Trump, who vowed to defeat the “radical left” and criticised efforts to remove statues of slave owners. The National Mall was largely empty after Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged people to stay away, though the US military conducted a flyover of vintage and modern military aircraft.