Joe Biden sets May 1 target to have all adults vaccine-eligible
Washington, Mar 12: 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 USD1.9 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 USD 1,400 in direct payments, some of which could begin landing in bank accounts this weekend, and extending USD 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.
The House gave final congressional approval to the sweeping package by a near party line 220-211 vote on Wednesday, seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill. Republicans in both chambers opposed the legislation unanimously, characterizing it as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the crises are easing.
Biden originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.
"We want to move as fast as possible," tweeted chief of staff Klain.
Previewing his Thursday night remarks, Biden said he would "talk about what we''ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I''m going to talk about what comes next."
Biden''s challenge is to honor the sacrifices made by Americans while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite "virus fatigue" and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines. Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization''s declaration of a pandemic, he''ll mourn the dead, but also project optimism about the future.
"This is a chance for him to really beam into everybody''s living rooms and to be both the mourner in chief and to explain how he''s leading the country out of this," said presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.
"This is a big moment," Brinkley added. "He''s got to win over hearts and minds for people to stay masked and get vaccinated, but also recognize that after the last year, the federal government hasn''t forgotten you."
Biden''s evening remarks in the East Room are central to a pivotal week for the president as he addresses the defining challenge of his term: shepherding the nation through the twin public health and economic storms brought about by the virus.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released initial guidance for how vaccinated people can resume some normal activities. On Wednesday, Congress approved the president''s US 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, aimed at easing the economic impact of the virus on tens of millions of people. And the nation was on pace to administer its 100 millionth dose of vaccine as soon as Thursday. (AP) AAR AAR