By BEN GITTLESON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden marked a year since the beginning of the coronavirus “shutdown” with a prime-time speech Thursday night where he announced all adult Americans should be eligible to get vaccinated by May 1, according to senior Biden administration officials.
He also predicted a possible return to some semblance of normalcy by the Fourth of July, and detailed several more measures aimed at speeding up vaccinations across the country.
It was the first prime-time address of his presidency, delivered from the White House’s East Room and came the same day he signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package into law, a major legislative victory for him and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Biden wants all adult Americans eligible for vaccination by May 1
In his remarks, Biden announced he will direct “states, tribes and territories to make all adults eligible for the vaccine no later than May 1.”
“That doesn’t mean everyone will get a shot immediately, but May 1 is the day every adult will be eligible to sign up to get the first shot,” the official said, adding that — as Biden has said — the administration only expects to actually have enough doses for all adults by the end of May.
While the federal government procures and distributes vaccine doses, states and other non-federal jurisdictions control eligibility for that supply. While many have largely followed federal guidance for the order in which to vaccinate different groups, there is still a patchwork of different eligibility guidelines that restrict who can receive it.
A senior administration official said told reporters that “the president does have the authority” to “direct,” via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these states to expand eligibility in such a way.
Biden thinks there could be some semblance of normalcy by the Fourth of July
The president also told Americans that if we all do our part, there’s a good chance that families, friends, neighbors will be able to gather in small groups to celebrate Independence Day on July Fourth.
Biden said he expects small gatherings, like backyard barbecues, could potentially be OK if Americans follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — wearing a mask, socially distancing and getting a vaccine when it’s your turn.
“He’s going to be very clear that this is not an automatic thing, that actually people have to continue to do what we all know that we need to do as Americans to get to that point,” an official said.
Ahead of Independence Day, the CDC plans to provide more guidance to Americans about traveling, small gatherings, going to work and houses of worship, an official said.
Federal government to ramp up vaccination program with troops, dentists and vets
During his speech, Biden announced the military will deploy 4,000 more active-duty service members “to support vaccination efforts,” with 6,000 total troops backing vaccination programs, an official said.
In addition, on Friday, the official said, “the administration will expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots, to include dentists, paramedics, physician assistants, veterinarians, and many more, including medical and health care students.”
The administration also plans to centralize information on a federally supported website to show vaccination locations, as well as provide technological support to states that allow people to make vaccination appointments on their own sites, the official said. It will launch a call center, as well, the official added.
Biden announced more support for schools and invest in screening testing to help schools reopen and protect settings like homeless shelters and prisons, the official said.
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