July 4 at White House: Biden touts US coronavirus progress

“Today, across the country, we can confidently say that America is pulling itself together,” the president said during an address to the White House. “245 years ago we declared our independence from a distant king. Today we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”

“Together we defeat the virus. Together we bring our economy to life. Together we will save our people from division and despair. But together we must do it. Over the past year we have lived in through some of our darkest days, “he said.” Now I truly believe – I give my word as Biden – I truly believe that we are about to see our future the most. brilliant. People, this is a special nation. “

More than five months into their tenure, the Bidens used the July 4 vacation to welcome guests in person, and more than a thousand were expected to enjoy food and festivities for the fourth on the culminating South Lawn. with fireworks over the National Mall.

Those invited were mostly military families and essential workers, who could bring their families, a nod of gratitude to the military and to those who kept the country going through the darkest days of the pandemic.

But the celebration comes at a time when federal officials warn of the Delta variant and redouble efforts to get vaccinated and protect the rest of the American population.

The White House asked everyone present on Sunday to get tested for Covid-19 before the event and to wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Psaki said all attendees received advice to get tested for Covid-19 one to three days before the event. She said those who are fully vaccinated can meet public health guidelines and are not required to wear masks.

A White House official told CNN there was some concern about the optics of the holiday party now that the Delta variant was making its way among vulnerable populations in the United States.

“Do we want us to do this after we have completely eradicated Covid? Yes, of course,” the official said, noting that there had never been any discussion of unplugging the party. “We are moving forward – with this event, with the initiatives, trying to get people vaccinated. All of this.”

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients earlier on Sunday defended the White House’s decision not to require those attending the first big party to be vaccinated.

“I think most of these people are vaccinated,” Zients told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”. “But at the end of the day, it’s an individual choice, we hope all individuals will make the right choice here and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

As a sign of heightened concern over the variant, the White House announced last week that it would deploy response teams made up of officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Department of Health and Social Services and the Federal Government. Emergency Management Agency across the United States in areas with high spread of the Delta variant. The teams will perform state-of-the-art testing, provide treatments like monoclonal antibodies, and deploy federal staff to areas that need support staff for vaccinations.

White House officials also recently acknowledged that the country will not meet Biden’s July 4 vaccination targets against Covid-19, saying the country has more work to do to get young Americans vaccinated. The president aimed for 70% of adults in the United States to receive at least one injection of the Covid-19 vaccine and for 160 million Americans to be fully immunized by July 4. According to the CDC, on the Friday before the holiday weekend, 67% of American adults have had at least one injection.

“Today we have the power of science. Thanks to our heroic vaccination effort, we have gained the upper hand against this virus. We can live our lives. Our children can go back to school. Our economy is recovering. of the beast, ”Biden said. Sunday.

“Don’t get me wrong, Covid-19 was not defeated. We all know that potent variants have arisen like the Delta variant. But the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated. My fellow Americans, that is the most patriotic thing you can do, ”he added.

“So please, if you haven’t been vaccinated. Do it. Do it now. For yourself, for your loved ones, for your community and for your country.”

Zients told reporters last week that he expects the United States to meet the vaccination target in weeks, and on Sunday he said the federal government will continue to make vaccines more accessible to the public. to increase the number.

“Well, we’ve made a lot of progress. I think we’re a lot further along than anyone would have expected at this point,” Zients told Bash, when asked why the administration failed.

The Sunday feast was much bigger than what was originally planned for the holidays. In March, Biden said he hoped Americans could reunite with family and friends on July 4 to celebrate backyard breakout vacations as more Americans get vaccinated. Since then, due to the nationwide vaccination effort, Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted across the country and the CDC has said Americans who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks indoors. or outdoors in most situations.

The White House official told CNN there will be food stations at the party that include American favorites like hot dogs and burgers, chicken and other selections that reflect the holidays. The decorations will be substantial and more noticeable than anything the White House Biden has offered so far, according to a person familiar with the planning. The White House has sought help from outside event companies, which the Trump and Obama administrations have also done for large-scale events.

The White House’s theme for the holiday weekend is “America’s Back Together,” promoting the idea that much of the nation is returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle as Americans get vaccinated. The president traveled to Traverse City, Michigan on Saturday to praise the administration’s response to the pandemic and celebrate the progress that has been made.

The First Lady, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Mr. Doug Emhoff also made trips Friday and Saturday as part of the weekend celebrations. Biden’s office is deployed across the country in more than a dozen states to attend roundtables and baseball games and visit fire stations, festivals, parades, barbecues and more.

“It was never, never a good bet to bet against America. Never!” Biden said in concluding his remarks on Sunday night.

“We just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. And there is nothing – nothing that we cannot do if we do it together.”

This story was updated with additional details on Sunday.

CNN Jasmine Wright and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

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