by Sydney Olinger ’23
March 11 marks the one-year anniversary of the nationwide shutdown that was enacted due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. A year ago today, no one could have predicted that our country would still have increasing cases and harsh COVID-19 regulations. In his first prime-time address to American citizens, given on this one-year anniversary, President Joseph Biden announced that he will direct states to make all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1.
This directive will hopefully mark the start of our country’s return to normalcy, but Biden noted that not all adults will be vaccinated by May 1. Therefore, some COVID-19 regulations, such as mask-wearing and not gathering in large crowds, need to be maintained.
The federal government is in control of distributing the vaccine to each state, but states are given discretion in deciding who is eligible. Most states have been consistent in deciding who receives priority for the vaccine, but some have different guidelines for which groups are eligible first. According to Biden, all adults should be able to get in line for their first dose of the vaccine by May 1, as long as the country has enough doses and rollout goes successfully.
On the same day as this prime-time address, Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package into law. The intent of this bill is ultimately to help Americans who are struggling financially. The bill also aims to stimulate an American economy that has been facing major challenges for the last year, as countless businesses have shut down or reduced capacity in order to limit the spread of the virus.
Biden’s plans for returning the country to some semblance of normalcy offered a sense of hope to many people and businesses in the country. With the increased distribution of vaccines to all adults willing to get the vaccine, Biden hopes that we will be able to have as close to a normal Fourth of July that we possibly can. “By July the Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” said Biden.
Despite the fact that Biden hopes we will be able to enjoy a fairly normal holiday, he is still encouraging people to not gather in large crowds. As vaccine rollouts progress in the coming weeks, the CDC will also update guidelines regarding travel, work, and gatherings. Depending on the number of cases as well as deaths, the first holiday we should be able to celebrate fully with people outside of immediate households will be Independence Day. “After this long hard year. . . [we] will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus,” stated Biden. Though we should remain hopeful that we will return to a sense of normalcy soon, we must also continue to follow the safety guidelines set by the CDC.
Biden also asked Americans to do their part to help the country make it to the other side of the pandemic. “A lot can happen,” Biden said. “Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again. As new variants of the virus spread, we’ve got work to do to ensure that everyone has confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines.” Throughout his speech, Biden expressed empathy and compassion for the lives lost during the pandemic both within our country and across the world, while also offering hope to the nation that we will overcome the virus and all of the pain it has brought.