(AP) — One year after the nation was brought to a near-standstill by the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is outlining his plan Thursday evening to make all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1 and get the country “closer to normal” by the Fourth of July. He’s using his first prime-time address to offer Americans fresh hope and appeal anew for their help.
Speaking in the White House East Room, Biden will announce moves to speed vaccinations, including directing that all states make all adults eligible for doses by May 1. Previewing his remarks, senior administration officials said Biden would also announce steps to expand the number of places and categories of people who can give shots, aiming to let Americans gather at least in small groups for the Independence Day holiday.
Biden is marking one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s remarks, officials said Biden would announce 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 is also 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.
Biden will require states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1, as the country expects to have enough supply to be able to fully vaccinate adults by the end of that month. The process of actually administering those doses, though, will take time.
Even as he offers optimism, the officials said Biden would make 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 will also call 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.”
The speech comes hours after Biden on Thursday signed into law a $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help the U.S. defeat the virus and nurse the economy back to health. Some direct checks to Americans could begin arriving this weekend.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.
Most noticeable to many Americans are provisions providing up to $1,400 in direct payments, some of which could begin landing in bank accounts this weekend, and extending $300 weekly emergency unemployment benefits into early September. Also included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave — some of them credits that Democrats have signaled they’d like to make permanent — plus spending for renters, feeding programs and people’s utility bills.