(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden said Thursday night that he is directing U.S. states to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all American adults by May 1 in an effort to more quickly reopen the country and prop up the staggering U.S. economy.
“To do this we’re going to go from a million shots a day … to 2 million shots a day,” he said.
In most U.S. states currently, only older Americans, front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions are eligible, though getting scheduled for a first dose has been problematic in many states even for the most at-risk.
In the first prime-time address of his presidency after 50 days in office, and the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Biden said the $1.9 billion relief package he signed earlier Thursday will help provide the resources states need to meet his deadline, and also to reopen schools across the country.
“The only way to get our country back, to get the economy back on track, is to beat this virus,” he said.
“With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, and I thank again the House and Senate for passing it, and my announcement last month of a plan to vaccinate teachers and school staff, including bus drivers, we can accelerate the massive nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely and meet my goal that I stated at the same time of 100 million shots of opening a majority of K through 8 schools in my first 100 days in office,” Biden said. “This is going to be the No. 1 priority of my new secretary of education, Miguel Cardona.”
Soon, Biden said, the U.S. will have enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of May.
He said more people are being recruited to administer the shots, more places are being deployed where they can be received, and more doses are being purchased from drug companies.
By July 4, he said, “there is a good chance” families will be able to get together to celebrate the holiday, though not in large groups.
“That will make this independence truly special,” he said. “But to get there, we can’t let our guard down,” threatening to add more restrictions on Americans if the country slides back in the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
More than 527,000 Americans have died with the virus to date, something Biden noted was more than in World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Sept. 11, 2001, combined.
Without directly naming his predecessor, Biden also criticized former President Donald Trump for what he claims was Trump downplaying the virus in the early days and months of the pandemic.
“We know what we need to do to beat this virus. Tell the truth. Trust the scientists,” he said.
Biden also touted the American Rescue Plan Act, which he signed earlier Thursday, calling it “an historic piece of legislation.”
The U.S. House gave final passage to the relief bill on Wednesday in a narrow, mostly party-line, 220-211, vote. The Senate passed the bill on Saturday following hours of debate.
Republicans and fiscal hawks argue the spending bill includes billions of dollars for initiatives unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic or economic recovery.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Wednesday that the bill “does more to fulfill their progressive wish list than to ease the burdens facing small businesses and families as a result of COVID-19.”
“With less than 10% of the nearly $2 trillion package dedicated to directly combatting the virus and only one percent for vaccines, this enormous package makes a mockery of the crisis our country is facing,” she said.
The bill includes $350 billion in what Republicans called a bailout for state and local governments, $160 billion for vaccines and testing, $170 billion for schools and universities, and an extension of $300-per-week unemployment benefits.
The $1,400 stimulus checks included in the legislation are expected to reach an estimated 85% of Americans and cost $410 billion, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
The latest round of stimulus checks were revised down from $2,000 checks, and a $15 federal minimum wage hike proposal was scratched from the plan after pushback from key Democrats.