WASHINGTON (AP) – Report the fireworks display.
President Joe Biden wants to give new meaning to Independence Day this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normal after 16 months of disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as the United States prepares to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus on Tuesday, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July 4 will be a watershed moment in the country’s recovery. That’s even if the United States shouldn’t quite hit its goal of getting 70% of adults vaccinated before the holidays.
As rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths drop to levels not seen since the early days of the outbreak, travel resumes and schools and businesses reopen, Biden proclaims ‘a summer of freedom’ to celebrate Americans resuming their pre-pandemic lives.
The holidays will see the biggest event yet of Biden’s presidency: he plans to welcome first responders, essential workers and military service members and their families to the South Lawn for a barbecue and to watch the fires of firework above the National Mall. More than 1,000 guests are expected, officials said, with final arrangements to be made.
The plan shows the dramatic shift in mindset since Biden just three months ago cautiously hoped people could have small barbecues by the fourth, an idea that seems odd now given the rapid pace of the reopening.
“By July 4th, there is a good chance that you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a barbecue and barbecue and celebrate Independence Day”, had Biden said in marking this pandemic anniversary on March 11. “It doesn’t mean big events with a lot of people together, but it does mean small groups can get together.”
For most Americans, that reopening goal was met last month, on Memorial Day weekend, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people and accompanying relaxation in state and local virus restrictions.
Now officials say July 4 will serve as an unofficial kickoff for a new phase in the US pandemic response. The federal government is seeking to turn the page on the national public health crisis and focus on economic and civic renewal at home and to mobilize support for immunizations around the world.
Across the country, the White House is hoping to see similar activities for Independence Day, following the massive cancellation of July 4 festivities last year, according to two White House officials who spoke out under cover of anonymity to describe the thinking of the administration.
“We invite you to join us in hosting your own events to honor our freedom, salute those who have served on the front lines and celebrate our progress in the fight against this pandemic,” the White House wrote in an email to state authorities. and local Tuesday. . He asked them to share their plans to be highlighted later by the administration.
In Washington, the National Mall will host the traditional fireworks ceremony, the White House said.
“America is heading for a radically different summer from last year,” the administration wrote to officials. “A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunion and celebration.
The upbeat announcement contrasts with the bleak reality in Europe, where Biden is on an eight-day tour of three countries – not to mention much of the rest of the world where vaccines remain scarce.
Instead of having a mission accomplished for a while, in Britain, one of the few countries to have a vaccination rate similar to that of the United States, the government announced on Monday that it plans to delay reopening further. at least a month to try to get more people immunized. But cases there, unlike in the United States, are on the increase, and not all adults have received a vaccine yet, nor children.
In Europe, Biden and his Group of Seven allies have announced plans to deliver 1 billion vaccines to the poorest countries, half of which go to the United States, but aid groups said a much larger commitment was needed to defeat the virus around the world.
Yet the vaccination campaign in the United States is far from over as rates drop. Fewer than 370,000 Americans now receive their first dose on average each day, up from nearly 2 million a day two months ago.
White House officials have acknowledged that there are still profound geographic disparities in vaccination and that the administration will continue to remind Americans that if they are not vaccinated, they are at risk of serious illness and death from the disease. virus.
All American adults have been eligible for injections for the past two months, and the administration has staged an aggressive ‘action month’ in an attempt to increase the demand for doses, although this has done little to change. trend lines: fewer Americans are interested in getting vaccinated.
Officials say the effects of the July 4 vaccination target of 70% of Americans on reducing COVID-19 cases are already being felt even though the benchmark will not be reached. Some 166.5 million adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. To reach his goal, Biden would need to vaccinate around 14 million more in less than three weeks.
“No matter where we are on July 4, we are not closing our doors,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week. “On July 5, we will continue to push to vaccinate more people across the country. “
The Democratic president intends to use his July 4 remarks to highlight the administration’s “wartime response” with a vaccination campaign that has helped reduce cases and deaths by around 90% by compared to what they were before he took office on January 20.
A HuffPost guide to the coronavirus
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a Founding Member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost