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Biden to announce small gatherings OK by 4th of July in prime-time speech: report

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President Biden on Thursday used his first primetime address to the nation to outline a gradual return to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The speech sets a goal for Americans to be able to gather in small groups by the Fourth of July and for all adults to be eligible for vaccine sign-ups by May 1.

The speech content was teased by the White House press office before Biden began speaking around 8 pm.

“Today, in his first prime time address, President Biden will announce the next phase of our war-time effort to vaccinate the U.S. population, with the goal of getting the nation closer to normal by July 4th, Independence Day,” the White House said.

“The White House COVID-19 Response Team has concluded that our accelerated vaccination efforts will enable prioritized vaccinations to be far enough along by end of April that all eligibility restrictions for vaccinations can be lifted by May 1st.”

Biden’s speech marks the one-year anniversary of widespread coronavirus lockdowns across the US, and comes hours after he signed the $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus bill that Democrats rammed through Congress this week in party-line votes.

President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on March 11, 2021.
President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on March 11, 2021.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The massive bill gives $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, extends a $300 weekly unemployment supplement through Sept. 3 and awards $350 billion to state and local governments.

Biden is expected to say the nation will be in “a far better place” by the Independence Day holiday if Americans wear masks, follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated against COVID-19 when it’s their turn.

He’s also set to announce a slew of new initiatives to speed up vaccinations, including directing all states to open up eligibility for the shot to all adults by May 1.

In his address, Biden is expected to stress that the “fight is far from over,” striking a familiar tone on the pandemic, again urging the need of sacrifice and patience to defeat the virus that has infected nearly 30 million Americans and killed more than 525,000.

Among the initiatives Biden is expected to announce is the deployment of an additional 4,000 US troops to support coronavirus vaccination efforts, from the 2,000 already deployed around the country.

The president will also detail plans to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal vaccination program, expand mobile operations to vaccinate people in communities that have been hard-hit by the virus and double the number of federally run mass vaccination centers.

He’s also vastly expanding who is eligible to administer the shot.

“Tomorrow, the Administration will expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots to include:  Dentists, advanced and intermediate Emergency Medical Technicians, Midwives, Optometrists, Paramedics, Physician Assistants, Podiatrists, Respiratory Therapists, and Veterinarians, as well as medical students, nursing students, and other healthcare students in the previously listed professions,” the White House said ahead of the speech.

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