Washington – President Joe Biden celebrated U.S. Independence Day on Sunday with an optimistic assessment of a country he says is returning to post-pandemic life, even though COVID-19 has not yet been fully “defeated”.
Speaking to a festive crowd of 1,000 guests on the South Lawn of the White House, Biden drew a comparison between the British Empire’s declaration of independence in 1776 and today’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus.
“Two hundred and forty-five years ago we declared our independence from a distant king. Today we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus, ”he told the crowd of military and essential workers invited.
“We have gained the upper hand against this virus,” he said. But he added: “Make no mistake: COVID-19 has not been defeated. We all know that powerful variants have appeared, like the delta variant. “
Biden paid tribute to those who lost their lives, with the staggering death toll in the United States now at over 600,000.
But he issued an extremely optimistic note, suggesting that under his leadership the country – bitterly and at times violently divided during Donald Trump’s presidency – was “coming together.”
“Over the past year, we’ve been through some of our darker days,” Biden said. “We are about to see our brightest future.”
Large crowds swarmed the National Mall for a massive fireworks display, another sign the United States is considering its July 4 vacation as a time to put the virus in the rearview mirror.
During the vacation of last year, as the pandemic nears its summer peak and cities in America reeling from anti-racism and police protests, Washington and other major cities only staged muted celebrations.
Despite the atmosphere of Sunday’s Victory Day, the Biden administration says it is concerned about the large number of people who have still not been vaccinated.
The heavily promoted White House goal of getting seven out of 10 adults on their first shot by Independence Day narrowly failed.
And when it comes to full vaccinations, only 46% of Americans have taken both doses.
This shift comes as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread.
Public health officials are watching parts of rural America where hospitals are starting to fill up again, particularly in Utah, Missouri, Arkansas and Wyoming.
Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC that unvaccinated people now account for 99.2% of deaths from COVID-19.
The smoke from the fireworks will hardly have dissipated before Biden must resume a complex political fight for the survival of his legislative agenda this summer.
Negotiations continue on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, and a heated debate within his Democratic Party looms over a much broader spending program that has no Republican support.
The president visited a cherry farm in Michigan on Saturday to tout a positive employment report in June, hailed as a sign of the US economic recovery.
In his South Lawn address, Biden said the country was on the move again. “We are seeing record job creation and economic growth – the best in four decades and, I might add, the best in the world. “
The administration has also sent cabinet secretaries and other officials to sporting events, barbecues and festivals nationwide as part of its “America’s Back Together” celebration.
And the White House – at least externally – continues to overflow with confidence. Six in 10 respondents in a new Washington Post and ABC News poll give Biden positive ratings for his handling of the pandemic.
Images of a crowded southern lawn have been picked up in celebratory scenes across the country, with New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and other cities all hosting their own shows.
On the west coast, San Diego was preparing to host one of the nation’s biggest July 4th parties, with fireworks fired from four barges around the bay.
US Senator Alex Padilla called Independence Day “a reminder of the American dream.”
“The best way to celebrate Independence Day is to take a moment to recognize all the hard work it took to get here,” he said.
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