Biden urges Americans to celebrate July Fourth and ‘independence’ from Covid-19

After being in office for nearly six months, grappling with a pandemic every step of the way, President Joe Biden was determined to party.

“This is a holiday weekend,” Biden declared Friday as he parried reporters’ “negative” questions about the continued withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, “I’m going to celebrate.”

Biden wants Americans to celebrate too, after 16 months of disruption from the pandemic and more than 605,000 deaths. The White House encouraged rallies and fireworks displays across the country to mark — as if ripped from a Hollywood script — the country’s “independence” from the virus.

And there’s a lot to cheer about: Thanks to the robust U.S. vaccination program, Covid-19 cases and deaths have been at or near record lows since the outbreak began. Businesses and restaurants are open, hiring is increasing and travel is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels.

This Fourth of July, America is back.

We are entering a summer of joy – of freedom – thanks to the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated. To the front lines and essential workers who made this day possible, thank you. pic.twitter.com/g6cztrJDT8

— President Biden (@POTUS) July 4, 2021

Yet it is hardly a “Mission Accomplished” moment. More than 200 Americans still die every day from Covid-19, a more contagious strain of the virus is spreading rapidly at home and abroad, and tens of millions of Americans have chosen not to get the life-saving vaccines.

‘A significantly better place’

“If you’ve had the vaccine, you’ll be fine,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease physician at the John Cochran VA Medical Center and the St. Louis Board of Health. “If you haven’t had the vaccine you should be alarmed and that’s just the bottom line. There’s no easy way to reduce it.”

“But that doesn’t change the fact that this country is in much better shape,” she said.

Biden, who will host the biggest event of his presidency on Sunday on the South Lawn of the White House, sees this as a long-awaited opportunity to highlight the success of the vaccination campaign he championed. It will be the clearest indication yet that the US has entered a new phase of virus response, shifting from a national emergency to a local crisis of individual responsibility and from vaccinating Americans to advancing global health.

“The Fourth of July this year is different from the Fourth of July last year,” Biden said Friday. “And next year it will be better.”

Top officials in the Biden administration spread across the country over the weekend to promote the vastly improved virus situation under the banner of “America’s Back Together.”

It doesn’t matter that with great fanfare, the president failed to meet the vaccination target he set for the Fourth.

Biden had hoped 70% of the adult population would be vaccinated by Sunday, but figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put him at about 67%. Officials insisted the miss would have little practical effect on Americans’ ability to celebrate Independence Day.

Two disparate realities

What worries them more is the emergence of two different realities in the US: the gap between heavily vaccinated communities where the virus is dying out and less vaccinated communities where the new delta variant is already taking hold.

About 1,000 counties have vaccination rates below 30%, and the federal government is warning they could become the next hot spots as virus restrictions ease.

The government sends “surge” teams to Colorado and Missouri. Additional squads of infectious disease experts, public health professionals, and doctors and nurses are gearing up to assist in additional locations with a combination of low vaccination rates and rising cases.

Overall, the vastly improved American landscape stands in stark contrast to much of the rest of the world, where there are still vast vaccine deserts and widespread community dispersion that could open the door to even more dangerous variants. The Biden administration is increasingly reversing the federal response to the complicated logistics of shipping surplus U.S. vaccines overseas in an effort to help other countries curb the pandemic.

With vaccine demand falling in the U.S. even as they’ve been widely available for months, and as governments and companies dangled a range of incentives for Americans to get a chance, officials are increasingly emphasizing that the effects of disease are now largely reflect the individual choices of those people. who have not yet been vaccinated.

“The suffering and loss we are now seeing is almost completely avoidable,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

When asked about the potential risks of holding rallies around July 4 in areas with large groups of unvaccinated individuals, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied that “if individuals in those areas are vaccinated, they will be vaccinated.” protected.”

At least 1,000 members and first responders were expected on the South Lawn for a cookout and fireworks display, the White House said. The outdoor event “is being done appropriately,” Jeff Zients, White House response coordinator for Covid-19, said in televised interviews Sunday, and “in compliance” with CDC guidelines. The White House did not require vaccinations, but asked guests to undergo Covid-19 testing and wear a mask if they are not fully vaccinated.

“Because there is still so much work to do, it’s so important to celebrate the wins,” Davis said. “I’m fine with having those bags of joy and celebration, as long as we still wake up the next day and continue to work and prioritize justice in vaccine distribution.”

(AP)

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