Calling a vaccination “the most patriotic thing you can do”, President Joe Biden on Sunday mixed the nation’s birthday party with a celebration of freedom from the worst of the pandemic. He tempered the strides against Covid-19 with a warning that the fight against the virus wasn’t over.“Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together,” Biden declared as he hosted more than 1,000 service members, first responders and other guests for a July Fourth celebration on the South Lawn of the White House.
For Biden it was a long-awaited opportunity to highlight the success of the vaccination campaign he championed. The event was the largest yet of his presidency, the clearest indication yet that the US had moved into a new phase of virus response. Shifting from a national emergency to a localised crisis of individual responsibility, the nation also moved from vaccinating Americans to promoting global health.
Noting the lockdowns that shuttered businesses, put millions out of work and separated untold numbers of families, Biden said, “Today we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against Covid-19 is over. We’ve got a lot more work to do.” Biden wanted all Americans to celebrate, too, after enduring 16 months of disruption in the pandemic and more than 6,05,000 deaths. The White House encouraged gatherings and fireworks displays all around the country to mark, as though ripped from a Hollywood script, the nation’s “independence” from the virus.
And there was much to cheer: Cases and deaths from Covid-19 were at or near record lows since the outbreak began, thanks to the robust US vaccination program. Businesses and restaurants were open, hiring was picking up and travel was getting closer to pre-pandemic levels.However, Biden’s optimism was measured for good reason. The vaccination goal he had set with great fanfare for July Fourth, 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, fell short at 67 per cent, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More concerning to officials was the gap between heavily vaccinated communities where the virus was dying out and lesser-vaccinated ones where a more infectious variant of the virus was already taking hold.
More than 200 Americans still die each day from Covid-19, and tens of millions have chosen not to get the life-saving vaccines.“If you’ve had the vaccine, you’re doing great,” said Dr Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease physician at the John Cochran VA Medical Center and St Louis Board of Health. “If you haven’t had the vaccine, you should be alarmed and that’s just the bottom line, there’s no easy way to cut it.” “But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this country is in a significantly better place,” she said.