WASHINGTON — One year after the nation was brought to a near-standstill by the coronavirus, President Joe Biden used his first prime-time address to outline his plan Thursday night to make all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1 and get the country “closer to normal” by the Fourth of July.
He offered Americans hope and appealed anew for their help.
Speaking in the White House East Room, Biden announced moves to speed vaccinations, including directing that states lift qualifications for vaccinations by May 1, and expand the number of places and categories of people who can give shots.
His aim: Let Americans gather at least in small groups for the Independence Day holiday.
Biden was marking one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.
“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” Biden said, calling the past year “a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”
Biden announced that he is deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and will allow more people — such as medical students, veterinarians and dentists — to deliver shots.
He also is directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies to make it easier for people to get vaccinated closer to their homes.
As supplies of the vaccines continue to increase, Biden announced that he will direct states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1.
The U.S. is expecting delivery of enough doses for those 255 million adults by the end of that month, but the process of actually administering those doses will take time.
Even as he offers optimism, Biden made clear that the July 4 timetable requires cooperation from Americans to continue to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and follow federal guidelines meant to slow the spread of the virus in the near term.
He also called on them roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.
“This is a whole-of-country effort,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN. “The president’s deploying our entire government to do its part. The American people are going to have to do their part, too.”
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released initial guidance for how vaccinated people can resume some normal activities.
On Wednesday, the nation was on pace to administer its 100 millionth dose of vaccine as soon as Thursday.