© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Biden speaks about the economy and need to pass coronavirus aid legislation at the White House in Washington
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. coronavirus lockdown on Thursday with a prime-time speech commemorating losses from the pandemic while expressing hope for the future as vaccinations increase.
The Democratic president, who campaigned on a promise to curb the coronavirus more effectively than his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, has warned Americans since his January inauguration that more deaths and pain were coming from the deadly virus.
But with the vaccinated population slowly increasing, Biden is conveying fresh hope even as he urges people to continue to be cautious against further flare-ups.
More than 528,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and just about 10% of the country has been fully vaccinated. Biden said on Wednesday that he would use his 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) address to discuss “what we’ve been through as a nation this past year.”
“But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” he said.
Biden clocked an early legislative victory this week with congressional passage of his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, and his administration plans to highlight that in the coming weeks, before pushing more of his campaign-trail “Build Back Better” plan.
The president is expected to warn Americans who, like people across the globe, are growing tired of pandemic restrictions, not to revert to normal behavior.
He has urged continued mask wearing, social distancing and good hygiene, and he has discouraged cities and states from loosening their guidelines on large gatherings.
“We cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable. Together, we’re going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future,” he said at an event with the chief executives of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Merck & Co on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday morning, nearly 128 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from the three authorized providers have been distributed in the United States and nearly 96 million shots administered, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Trump, a Republican, downplayed the crisis in its early stages and eschewed mask wearing, while predicting repeatedly that the pandemic would go away soon.