President Joe Biden took credit for America’s return to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
Biden touted his administration’s efforts to get Americans vaccinated as well as the recent move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update mask guidance to free a majority of Americans from needing to wear face coverings. The president stressed the need to vaccinate the world, keep schools open and stay vigilant against new variants of the coronavirus.
“Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools we have, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said. “Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.”
Nearly 600,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 during the Biden administration, more than the toll under former President Donald Trump. Biden has overseen the vast majority of the U.S. vaccine rollout, which has seen more than 80% of Americans aged five and older get at least one shot. Biden mentioned that it will be important to get a vaccine approved for children under age five.
The CDC’s new mask guidance divides American counties into three levels. Only the highest level of transmission and hospitalization rates are places where Americans are recommended to wear masks, and more than two-thirds of Americans do not live in those areas. Biden was seen wearing a mask while outside as recently as two days ago, but ditches his mask for Tuesday’s address. Attendees of the speech were not required to mask, after a months-long mask mandate in the Capitol was lifted.
Biden did stress that Americans will not have to simply “live with COVID.” He said that the country must remain vigilant and treat the virus like it does other deadly diseases that present a threat to certain Americans. Some on the left have criticized Biden and other Democrats who seemingly want to move past the pandemic as leaving behind the vulnerable.
President Joe Biden announces during State of the Union that the U.S. is launching a “test to treat” plan to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies for people that test positive for COVID-19. https://t.co/MUD4prfT5Z
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 2, 2022
He said his administration will launch a new program allowing Americans who test positive for COVID-19 to get free antiviral pills at pharmacies.
Despite some deep blue areas fighting to keep schools closed for much of the last year, Biden said there’s no reason for kids to no longer be in school going forward. Teachers’ unions, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest benefactors, have fought in some jurisdictions to keep remote learning or institute cumbersome testing protocols to keep schools open.
Biden closed the pandemic portion of his speech by asking that the American people unite going forward, despite being divided in the past on how to handle the virus: “We can’t change how divided we’ve been. But we can change how we move forward—on COVID-19 and other issues we must face together.” (RELATED: State Department Warns Americans Not To Visit Ukraine Because Of COVID-19)
Many Democratic governors dropped their states’ mask and vaccine mandates in February, oftentimes with COVID-19 infection and death rates higher than when they were implemented. Polling has indicated that a majority of Americans would like to see America move away from COVID-19 restrictions going forward.