President Joe Biden delivered a primetime address Thursday night, marking the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
"While it was different for everyone, we all lost something," Biden, 78, said of the deadly pandemic. Pulling a card out of his jacket pocket, the president solemnly shared that 527,726 people in the U.S. have died related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began — a number the exceeds the loss of life in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.
Television networks across the country broadcast the speech, which marked the grim anniversary and provided some hope for the country's recovery in the coming months.
Biden outlined several next steps for the country in the coming weeks, and announced that he is directing all states, tribes and territories to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for the vaccine by May 1.
He also promised that new resources for finding and making vaccine appointments will be available soon.
"No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones," he said, adding that more guidance on what activities those who are vaccinated are and are not allowed to participate in will be coming out soon.
He also emphasized that getting children in kindergarten through eighth grade back in classrooms will be a major priority headed by the new Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona.
Biden said that the goal is to have life return to a semblance of normalcy by July 4 — though warned that it is not the time to let up on preventative measures like wearing a mask and social distancing.
"I need every American to do their part," he said. "July 4th with your loved ones is the goal." Biden clarified that while the hope is to have small gatherings back by Independence Day, large gatherings will still be some time off.
"Beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity," he continued, adding that while "we've made so much progress, this is not the time to let up."
Biden concluded by saying the COVID-19 pandemic "a shared experience that binds us together as a nation" — but that "we're also bound together by a hope and possibilities of the days in front of us."
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A year ago this week, state governments first began to implement shutdowns and issue stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The global pandemic went on to have a grave impact in the U.S., which failed to contain the virus under President Donald Trump.
As of Thursday, a New York Times tracker shows at least 528,829 people have died from COVID-19, while more than 29.2 million people have contracted the deadly respiratory illness.
Americans voted to replace Trump last November with Biden, who ran on the promise of containing the COVID-19 pandemic and returning the country "to normal."
Earlier Thursday, Biden signed a $1.9 trillion relief bill meant to send economic aid to Americans impacted by the pandemic. The new stimulus package is the third massive spending bill Congress has passed over the past year, in response to the pandemic's economic impact on the country.
"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country," Biden told reporters before signing the bill, which he said will give "the people of this nation, working people, the middle-class folks, people who built the country a fighting chance."
The Biden administration has rolled out tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in its first month and a half in office.
With Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration for safe use, The Washington Post reports that at least 62.5 million people have received one or more vaccine doses in recent weeks.
According to the Post, more than 32 million people across the country have been fully vaccinated as of Thursday. About 128 million vaccines have been distributed, while the administration says it will purchase 100 million additional doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expecting they will be ready to distribute in the second half of 2021.
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