“Today, all across this nation we can say with confidence America is coming back together,” the President said in remarks outside the White House. “245 years ago, we declared our independence from a distant king. Today, we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”
The US, Biden said, is seeing “the results of the unity of purpose.”
“Together, we’re beating the virus. Together, we’re breathing life into our economy. Together, we will rescue our people from division and despair. But together, we must do it. Over the past year, we’ve lived through some of our darkest days,” he said. “Now I truly believe — I give my word as a Biden — I truly believe we are about to see our brightest future. Folks, this is a special nation.”
More than five months into their tenure, the Bidens used the July 4th holiday as an opportunity to host guests in person, and more than a thousand were anticipated to enjoy food and festivities for the Fourth on the South Lawn, culminating in fireworks on the National Mall.
Those invited were mostly military families and essential workers, who could bring their families, a nod of gratitude to service members and those who kept the country going during the darkest days of the pandemic.
But the celebration comes at a time when federal officials are warning about the Delta variant and doubling down on getting the rest of the US population vaccinated and protected.
The White House asked everyone attending on Sunday to get tested for Covid-19 before the event and wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki said all attendees received guidance that they should get tested for Covid-19 one to three days in advance of the event. She said those who are fully vaccinated can abide by public health guidelines and aren’t required to wear masks.
A White House official told CNN there is some concern about the optics of the holiday party now that the Delta variant is creeping its way across vulnerable populations of the United States.
“Do we wish we were doing this having completely eradicated Covid? Yes, of course,” said the official, noting there was never discussion about pulling the plug on the party. “We’re moving ahead — with this event, with the initiatives, with trying to get people vaccinated. All of it.”
The White House Covid-19 response coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, earlier Sunday defended the White House’s decision not to require those who attend the first big bash to be vaccinated.
“I think most of these folks are vaccinated,” Zients told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “But at the end of the day, it’s an individual choice, we hope all individuals make the right choice here and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
In a sign of the heightened concern about the variant, the White House announced last week that it would be deploying response teams made up of officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency across the US to areas with a hi
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