It was only fitting that the White House would host a celebration on July 4th to commemorate Independence Day and the administration’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic, as President Biden had long anticipated this day as a turning point in the fight.
The White House has had to walk a fine line in bringing together some 1,000 people for the largest planned event of Vice President Biden’s presidency, while still acknowledging the dangers of a pandemic that continues to claim hundreds of lives a day..
July 4 had been earmarked by the White House for months as a key date in the pandemic, the point at which many restrictions could be lifted if the country met aggressive vaccination goals.
At first, Mr. Biden expressed cautious optimism that small gatherings would be safe during the holiday weekend after his election.
It’s safe to say that the White House’s confidence grew as vaccination rates rose steadily throughout spring, and on Sunday’s event, they declared that it was a celebration of both Independence Day and “independence from Covid-19.”
There will be a barbecue and remarks by Vice President Biden as part of the White House celebration for the attendees, who are a group of first responders, essential workers and service members, many of whom have been vaccinated and are no longer required to wear masks because of guidelines issued by the CDC in May.
Even so, the Biden administration has had to admit in recent weeks that there are many obstacles ahead of the current administration.
While the White House once set a goal of having at least 70% of adults fully vaccinated by July 4, officials acknowledged last month that they were almost certainly going to miss that target due to a decline in vaccination rates since a peak in April of this year.
While 20 states, Washington, D.C., and two territories crossed the 70% mark last week, the country’s progress as a whole has slowed significantly, with an average of only one million doses being administered each week now. According to data compiled by the New York Times on Sunday, approximately 67% of adults had received at least one vaccine.
Even vaccinated Americans could become infected as a result of the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has prompted public health officials to raise concerns about new outbreaks in areas of the country where vaccination rates have lagged.
It’s unlikely that the White House pageantry will present a display of normalcy, but there will be a sense of restraint rarely seen under the previous administration during this occasion.
A 35-minute fireworks display and military flyovers were held on the National Mall despite the wishes of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, who urged people to avoid the event. Despite this, President Trump went ahead with the fireworks display. This year’s fireworks display will be half as long as last year’s, and Mayor Bowser has welcomed visitors back to the city because of the progress being made in vaccine development.
It is believed that Mr. Trump and a number of other guests were exposed and infected at White House events during his presidency that were held before vaccines had been approved, such as the nomination and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Even as his own health officials continue to stress the importance of vaccines, Vice President Biden sees this year’s celebrations as a signal that Americans can enjoy some degree of normalcy in coming together.
It’s time to “step back and celebrate our progress,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey D. Zients said on Thursday. “A lot more work needs to be done.”
Prior to today’s event, the president made it clear that the United States is still averaging hundreds of Covid-19 deaths per day, despite a vaccination campaign. Complacency is a danger, he warned.
According to Vice President Joe Biden, “I am not concerned that there will be a major outbreak — in other words, that we will have another epidemic throughout the country,” on Friday. “However, I’m worried that people will die.”
Although his administration’s goals have recently been set back, the president appeared ready to seize the moment.
“This year’s Fourth of July is different from last year’s Fourth of July,” he stated. “And next year will be even better.”