‘Independence from this virus’: President Biden shifts from ‘darkest days’ to hope on the horizon

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WASHINGTON — After months of warning the “darkest days” in the battle against COVID-19 “are ahead of us, not behind us,” President Joe Biden struck a more optimistic tone Thursday as he offered a glimmer of hope that Americans may see some semblance of normalcy by Independence Day.

Making his first primetime address as president, Biden mourned a “collective suffering, a collective sacrifice” over the last year but pivoted to a more hopeful future by announcing he directed states to make all American adults eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines no later than May 1. He also vowed that if Americans “do our part” in the coming weeks, friends and families will be able to join together in small groups in time for Fourth of July celebrations.

“That will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,” he said. “But to get there, we can’t let our guard down. This virus is far from over.”

The president’s 24-minute speech delivered from the East Room at the White House marked a departure from his mostly sober messaging on the COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed nearly 530,000 Americans in the year since the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. While still imploring Americans to wear masks, get vaccinated and wash their hands, Biden for the first time looked ahead to the start of a post-pandemic society.

“Over a year ago, no one could have imagined what we were about to go through,” Biden said, “but now we’re coming through it.”

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