WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday evening used his first prime-time address to the nation to announce that he is directing states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive coronavirus shots by no later than May 1.
The speech from the East Room came just hours after Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law, saying that an “overwhelming percentage” of U.S. citizens support the measure and calling it an effort focused on “rebuilding the backbone of this country.”
Using his executive authority Biden said that all states, tribes and territories must make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.
Biden also said his administration is on track to beat his promise to deliver 100 million COVID-19 vaccination shots by the 60th day of his presidency.
“When I came into office, you may recall I set a goal, and many of you said it was way over the top,” Biden said. “I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days in office.”
“Tonight, I can say we’re not only going to meet that goal we’re gonna be beating that goal,” Biden continued. “We are actually on track to meet the goal of 100 million in arms on my 60th day in office.
“No other country in the world, has done this. None.”
Biden opened his speech by noting that the virus was “met with silence and spread unchecked, denials for days, weeks, then months.”
“That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness,” Biden said. “Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era. The last vacation. The last birthday with friends. The last holiday with extended family. While it was different for everyone, we all lost something. A collective suffering. A collective sacrifice.
“A year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us,” Biden continued. “But in the loss we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect and gratitude, finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do.”
Biden cautioned that “the fight is far from over” regarding the virus.
“My fellow Americans, you’re owed nothing less than the truth,” Biden said. “And for all of you asking about when things will get back to normal, here is the truth. The only way to get our lives back, to get our economy back on track, is to beat the virus.”
“But this is one of the most complex operations we’ve ever undertaken as a nation in a long time,” Biden added. “That’s why I’m putting every power I have as President of the United States to put us on a war footing to get the job done.
“Thank God we’re making some real progress now.”
Original report: The details from Thursday’s announcement came from two senior administration officials who briefed reporters ahead of Biden’s evening address on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. The officials said the president will also say that there is a good chance Americans will be able to safely gather in small groups by July 4.
Biden is also expected to stress that the “fight is far from over,” The New York Times reported. He will add that the nation will be in a “far better place” by the Independence Day holiday if Americans wear masks, follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated when it is their turn.
“The President will talk about small gatherings, like a barbecue in your backyard, in your neighborhood,” a senior administration official told CNN. “He will be clear that does not mean large events where lots of people gather. But it does mean that we can once again have an Independence Day with small gatherings and celebrations and that’s a big step in the right direction.”
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to keep the focus on the president’s address, media outlets reported.
“I’m going to talk about what comes next,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday as he discussed his upcoming speech. “There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable. Together, we’re going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future.
“There’s real reason for hope, I promise you.”
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