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Biden declares success in beating back pandemic in July 4 speech

President Joe Biden speaks during Independence Day celebrations on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2021. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

A triumphant President Joe Biden all but announced an end to the pandemic in the U.S. on Sunday, celebrating what he called a “heroic” vaccination campaign on the country’s Independence Day holiday.

Speaking at a party on the White House’s South Lawn with more than 1,000 people in attendance, Biden declared that the U.S. had achieved “independence” from the coronavirus, though he cautioned against complacency with more transmissible variants circulating in the country.

“Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together,” Biden said to a cheer from the invited guests. “Today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation and it’s within our power to make sure it never does so again.”

He appealed for Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get their shots, noting that the country’s battle against the virus had been costly, with more than 603,000 Americans dead.

Biden’s optimistic mood reflects the plunge in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths since he took office and a rebound that has made the U.S. economy one of the strongest in the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that more than 850,000 jobs were created in June. And Biden’s White House party followed a trip to Michigan on Saturday where he sought to give a political shot in the arm to Democratic allies ahead of 2022 midterm elections.

“We’re seeing record job creation and record economic growth — the best in four decades and, I might add, the best in the world,” he said.

The White House invited hundreds of essential workers, military families and administration staff members to view the Independence Day fireworks on the South Lawn as Biden touts a government vaccination drive that has helped get at least one dose to 67% of adults in the U.S.

While Biden missed his goal of reaching 70% by July 4, the U.S. emerged as the best place to be as the world reopens, according to the latest Bloomberg COVID Resilience Ranking. The survey credits the fast and expansive U.S. vaccine rollout, dominated by highly effective mRNA shots, that stemmed what was once the world’s worst outbreak.

The challenge ahead includes the delta variant of the coronavirus, a more-transmissible mutant that’s spreading across the country, with states from New York to California reporting an increase in positive test rates.

The administration’s struggle to hit its vaccination goal by July 4 has spurred concern that the virus could continue to wreak havoc on significant swaths of the country and the economy.

The party caps a U.S. holiday weekend during which Biden and top administration officials fanned out across the country to attend baseball games, parades, barbeques and other group activities in a coordinated push billed as the “America’s Back Together” tour.

The U.S. vaccination campaign has sharply slowed as demand dries up and the Biden administration grapples with low uptake among young people and conservative states. Cases nationally have started to rise again, driven in part by delta variant outbreaks in more unvaccinated regions.

The pace of shots in the U.S. has fallen off by about two-thirds since April, with about 1.1 million now administered daily, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. At that rate, it will take another five months for 75% of the population to be vaccinated.

Two in 10 Americans say they definitely won’t get a COVID-19 shot, up from 16% in April, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published Sunday.

Last year, former President Donald Trump delivered an extended Independence Day address in which he vowed defeat of the “radical left” and criticized efforts to remove statues of slave owners. The National Mall was largely empty after Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged people to stay away, though the U.S. military conducted a flyover of vintage and modern military aircraft.

A year earlier, Trump planned an all-day event that doubled the length of the fireworks display and featured a speech from the Lincoln Memorial after a military display including armored vehicles on the streets of the capital.

Democrats widely criticized the effort as costly and self-indulgent. Trump and his allies defended the display as a celebration of the nation similar to other countries’ large national holidays.


© 2021 Bloomberg L.P

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