- President Joe Biden announced that he will direct states to make all adults, ages 18 and up, eligible for the coronavirus vaccines by May 1.
- Biden, in his first primetime address to the nation, also said that Americans should hopefully be able to gather in small groups to celebrate the Fourth of July.
- The speech comes hours after Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, which he had strongly pushed during his first 50 days in office.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced Thursday evening that he will direct states to make all adults, ages 18 and up, eligible for the coronavirus vaccines by May 1.
Biden, in his first primetime address to the nation, also set a goal for Americans to be able to gather in person with their friends and loved ones in small groups to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Biden delivered the announcements on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, reflecting with anguish on its devastation while offering hope that better days could soon be coming — if Americans don't get complacent.
"If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon, our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school, and we'll have proven once again that this country can do anything," Biden said.
But "if we don't stay vigilant, and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track," Biden added. "And please, we don't want to do that again. We've made so much progress. This is not the time to let up."
"Just as we were emerging from the dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer, [now] is not the time to not stick with the rules," he said.
Biden also said in the speech that his administration in May will launch a website to help people find nearby vaccination sites, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue new guidance about health and safety for those who have been vaccinated.
The address from the East Room of the White House began just after 8 p.m. ET, and lasted about 25 minutes.
It came exactly one year after former President Donald Trump, speaking to the nation while seated at the resolute desk of the Oval Office, announced temporary travel suspensions to the United States from Europe.
Trump in that speech downplayed the threat of the virus to the economy and to people who are not elderly, claiming that to "the vast majority of Americans, the risk is very, very low."
Biden's speech, in contrast, stressed that the pandemic still presents a serious danger, even with vaccinations rapidly increasing.
"My fellow Americans, you're owed nothing less than the truth," Biden said.
"On July 4, with your loved ones, is the goal," Biden said. "But a lot can happen. Conditions can change. And scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread."
Biden, without referencing Trump by name, blasted the prior administration for initially responding to the virus with "silence" and allowing it to "spread unchecked" for months.
"That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness," Biden said, before acknowledging the nearly 530,000 people in the U.S. who have died from Covid.
Biden's speech also explicitly decried the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been "attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated" during the pandemic.
The primetime event came hours after Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, which he had aggressively pushed Congress to pass during his first 50 days in office.
The speech also came as the United States administered a record number of vaccines over the weekend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administered 2.9 million vaccines on Saturday, a record, and 2.4 million on Sunday, according to the agency's latest tally. The numbers are subject to revisions as more data becomes available to public health officials.
Biden in his speech said that as of Thursday, 65% of Americans over the age of 65 have received their first vaccination, and more than 70% of Americans over 75 had done the same. Those figures were at 8% and 14%, respectively, when Biden took office.
Biden is set to embark on a nationwide tour next week to tout the first major legislative accomplishment of his administration. The president will depart Tuesday for Delaware County in Pennsylvania, an electoral swing state that was key to Biden's victory over Trump.
CNBC's Kevin Breuninger reported from New York City.