President Biden announced in an address to the nation Thursday that as part of the next phase in combatting the coronavirus, he is directing states, tribes and territories to ensure everyone is eligible for vaccination by May 1.
The new directive comes as part of a broader strategy that included increasing the number of vaccine sites and active-duty troops supporting the vaccination effort. The White House is also rolling out a new website and 1-800 number to assist with finding vaccines.
So far, states have limited eligibility, prioritizing high-risk individuals and front-line workers, although more states have recently expanded the field of who can obtain one.
Biden’s speech came as the U.S. started a second year under some form of lockdown. During his speech, Biden set a goal for Americans to begin holding gatherings by July 4.
“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,” Biden said.
“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, but in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain. … Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do.”
In opening his remarks, Biden took an apparent shot at the Trump administration.
“We were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked — denials for days, weeks, then months,” he said, echoing comments from his campaign.
Biden added: “That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.”
During the pandemic, Biden said, Americans “lost faith in whether our government and our democracy can deliver on really hard things for the American people.”
The Biden administration’s coronavirus response has encountered attacks for not moving fast enough on school reopenings, something his critics attribute to the influence of teachers’ unions.
With the newly passed American Rescue Plan, Biden’s administration is putting $130 billion toward reopening schools with a focus on mitigation strategies and hiring staff.
“These dollars will help schools pay for the critical supplies to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended mitigation strategies, hire more staff – and avoid laying off current staff – to accommodate the need for smaller class sizes due to physical distancing, and support children’s academic, social and emotional needs after a challenging year,” a White House fact sheet reads.
Other stimulus funds will go towards expanding testing and efforts at detecting variants of the virus.
In an appeal to the whole country, Biden urged everyone to do their “part,” which he said included wearing face masks.