President Biden set a goal of July 4 to "get closer to normal" in reopening the country in his first prime-time address on Thursday night. To reach that goal, Mr. Biden said he would be directing all states to make all American adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1.
"It will make this Independence Day truly special — where we not only mark out independence as a nation but our independence from this virus," Mr. Biden said. But to attain this goal, he said, "I need every American to do their part."
As greater numbers of people are fully vaccinated, Mr. Biden said the Centers for Disease Control would update its guidance on activities like travel and attending church worship services. The Biden administration has been criticized by some for providing such limited guidance so far for fully vaccinated people.
Mr. Biden also said his administration is on track to reach 2 million shots a day and to reach his original goal of 100 million shots in arms on his 60th day in office, just 10 days from now.
"No other country in the world has done this. None," he said of the U.S. vaccination rate.
Overall, Mr. Biden tried to send a message of unity as Americans enter the second year of the pandemic. He struck a solemn tone at the start of the speech, announcing that he was marking the one-year anniversary of when "everything shut down."
"A collective suffering, collective sacrifice, a year filled with a loss of life and a loss of living for all of us," Mr. Biden said. He told Americans that he keeps a card in his pocket with the running total of Americans who have died of COVID.
Today, he said, that number is 527,726.
Biden says all adults 18 and over should be able to be vaccinated beginning May 1
The president officially announced that he will be directing all states and territories to make all adults eligible no later than May 1.
"That doesn't mean everyone's going to have that shot immediately, but it means you'll be able to get in line" on May 1, the president said.
Mr. Biden also said the administration is on track to reach 2 million shots a day and to attain his original goal of 100 million shots in arms on his 60th day in office.
"No other country in the world has done this. None," he said of the U.S. vaccination rate.
The president said the administration is calling in active-duty military and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel to help administer shots. They're also expanding community healthy centers and deploying mobile vehicles to help vaccinate Americans.
As greater numbers of people are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control will update its guidance on activities like travel and attending church worship services. The Biden administration has been criticized by some for providing such limited guidance so far for fully vaccinated people.
"I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity," and to help friends and neighbors get vaccinated, too, he said.
By July 4, if Americans are vigilant and get vaccinated, Americans should be able to gather in small groups with family and friends, Mr. Biden said.
"But to get there, we can't let our guard down. This fight is far from over," he said. "... On July 4 with your loved ones is the goal."
The president warned that scientists have noted conditions could grow worse because of new variants of the virus. Americans need to stay vigilant, the president said, or else restrictions may have to be imposed again.
"This is not the time to let up," he said.
Mr. Biden concluded on an optimistic note: he said he would be traveling in the days ahead to sell the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID economic relief package he signed into law earlier Thursday.
RNC responds to Biden's address
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released a statement focusing on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan "boondoggle," and on the fact that many Americans are unemployed and not yet back in school.
"Tonight, on a solemn occasion marking the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, the American people heard Joe Biden take a victory lap for passing a $1.9 trillion boondoggle disguised as COVID 'relief'," she said in her statement. "Biden and Democrats in Congress chose to pass a partisan bill where only 9 percent of the money is targeted to fighting the pandemic, all while continuing to ignore the suffering of American families that are struggling while out of work and out of school."
"It's also an important reminder that one year ago today, President Trump announced an aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront the virus that ultimately resulted in the fastest creation of a vaccine in modern history through Operation Warp Speed," McDaniel continued. "As our nation recovers, it is important to focus on the challenges that lie ahead: getting Americans back to work, allowing students to return to school, and finishing the work the Trump administration started in distributing vaccines."
Biden gives first prime-time address to mark pandemic's one-year anniversary
In President Biden's first prime-time address, he set a goal of July 4 to reopen the country while also acknowledging the solemn anniversary on the first anniversary of the pandemic. CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe and CBSN political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns join CBSN's Lana Zak to discuss.
Biden says he is putting nation on "war footing"
After the solemn, mournful tone of the beginning of the speech, Mr. Biden looked forward to when the country would reopen. He said he was putting the nation on "war footing."
"For all of you asking 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," Mr. Biden said. "But this is one of the most complex operations we've ever undertaken."
Mr. Biden touted his announcement Wednesday that his administration had ordered 100 million more doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"Now because of all the work we've done, we'll have enough vaccine supply for all Americans by the end of May," he said. "That's way ahead of schedule."
Biden mourns "a year filled with a loss of life and a loss of living for all of us"
President Biden stepped up to the podium and said he grieves with Americans who have lost loved ones and who have missed out during the last year.
"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," he said.
The president spoke of a "collective suffering, collective sacrifice, a year filled with a loss of life and a loss of living for all of us."
"Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do," Mr. Biden said.
He told Americans that he carries a card in his pocket with the number of Americans who have died from COVID each day. Now, he said, that number stands at 527,726.
Mr. Biden said the last year has "exacted a terrible cost" on the psyche of Americans who long to be together. Grandparents haven't seen children and grandchildren, and children haven't seen friends.
"Too often, we've turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives. Sometimes, it divides us. States pitted against one another, instead of working with each other.
The president also decried attacks on Asian Americans who, he said, have been "scapegoated" and "forced to live in fear."
"It's wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop," the president said.
Biden tweets video about emerging stronger
From the official POTUS account, President Joe Biden tweeted a video ahead of the speech with images from the past year.
"People return stronger in all the broken places," Mr. Biden says in the voiceover. "The country's been through so much. The light at the end of this tunnel is sunshine. It's real. And not a single crisis we have ever faced, we have not been able to overcome and be stronger for having been able to overcome it."
Biden to call out hate crimes against Asian Americans
President Biden will call out hate crimes against Asian Americans during his speech, a White House official told CBS News. He's made a very deliberate decision to do this during the prime-time address, the official said, characterizing the message as very "forceful" and one that would show a commitment to addressing the attacks.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Thursday that the president had a line-by-line involvement in the writing of the speech; these lines are very important to him, the source said.
This comes on the same day the House introduced legislation calling for a new Justice Department position dedicated to hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Biden to direct all states to make all adults eligible for vaccine by May 1
In his speech, Mr. Biden will announce that he's directing all states, territories and tribes to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1, a senior administration official said.
It's one of the most sweeping directives so far from Mr. Biden, who has largely left decisions about eligibility up to the states. The president has already said there would be enough vaccine supply for all American adults by the end of May.
Once all Americans are eligible for the vaccine, the Biden administration will try to ensure all adults can access it by increasing the number of places where people can get their shots, and boosting the number of vaccinators.
The president will also announce that by May 1, a federally supported website will list nearby locations administering the vaccine, and a 1-800 number will be available for those who might lack internet access.
The Biden administration will also provide additional guidelines on what vaccinated people may safely do.
The president is also expected to say that he wants the nation to get closer to normal by July 4, according to a senior White House aide, a much earlier timetable than he's offered in the past.
Top Biden aide says his address is not a victory lap
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield previewed some of the president's speech on CNN Thursday, saying "this is not the time to take our foot off the gas."
The president will strike an "optimistic tone," but this is "not the time to relax our vigilance," she said.
Bedingfield also responded to some criticism from Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who say Democrats are only focused on celebrating now. Bedingfield replied no when asked if this is a victory lap.
CBS News poll finds COVID relief is popular among most Americans
Three in four Americans approve of Congress' passing the economic relief package — the measure continues to draw wide support. Large majorities of Democrats and independents, along with nearly half of Republicans, said they approved of the bill's passage.
Overall, majorities across income groups approve of the COVID economic relief package. Among Republicans, there is more support for it among those with lower household incomes than among those with higher incomes.
Read more here.
— Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, Kabir Khanna and Fred Backus