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Biden touts progress on the state of pandemic ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Evan Vucci

President Joe Biden on Friday delivered a message of hope and optimism on the declining number of Covid-19 cases and increased vaccination rates ahead of the Memorial Day weekend in a speech in northern Virginia.

Biden outlined the progress the nation has made across the country, as well as in Virginia specifically, in combating the pandemic since Biden took office, the official said. The President also urged Americans who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 to get the shot.

Biden and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, spoke at Sportrock Climbing Center to celebrate the progress Virginia has made in the fight against Covid-19.

“Four months after I took office, we’re further along in this fight than anyone thought possible. Let’s remember where we were 129 days ago. When I took office, we were averaging 184,000 cases per day nationwide. Here in Virginia, as the governor pointed out, schools were closed, main street had gone quiet here and in cities all across America,” Biden said.

Earlier this week, the White House touted the US reaching the milestone of having more than 50% of American adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Nearly 166 million people — 49.9% of the US population — have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and nearly 133 million people — 40% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ten states have now reached the Biden administration’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of adults against Covid-19 by July 4 with at least one dose, according to data published by the CDC. Biden has also said he wants 160 million US adults fully vaccinated by July 4.

But the reopening of the country has come with some sticker shock for Americans who are seeing prices rise on some important goods as demand surges.

Among those price rising prices are those for gas, especially as Americans take to the road over the Memorial Day weekend. White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to put a positive spin on gas prices that are averaging around $3 a gallon in a statement on Friday.

“As Americans are hitting the road, they are paying less in real terms for gas than they have on average over the last 15 years– and they’re paying about the same as they did in May 2018 and May 2019,” she said. “The Administration’s success in beating the pandemic and getting our economy back on track has led to increased demand for gas as the country re-opens. But, while prices have increased from the lows last year—as demand drastically dipped—prices at just about $3 per gallon are still well in-line with what they’ve been in recent decades.”

Biden stressed in his speech that despite the growing light at the end of the tunnel, the US can’t let up now and he urged those not yet vaccinated to get their shots.

“As more Americans get vaccinated, the days grow brighter and brighter but let me be clear: We’re not done yet. We have to reach those who are not vaccinated and make it as easy as possible for them to get protected,” the President said, calling on Americans to “sprint through the finish line.”

Biden also said that the increase in vaccinations across the country shows that Americans are willing to come together for a common goal of beating the virus.

“When I ran for office, I said I wanted to do three things, one of which was to unite the country. It’s difficult, but this is the first real evidence that we’re able to do it. The American people are more ready to come together, I believe, than the Congress and the elected officials are, but we’re getting there,” he said.

Ahead of Biden’s trip to Virginia, the White House official pointed to the declining Covid-19 case rate, death rate and hospitalization rate in the state. Virginia saw about 30 cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days, down about 21% from the previous 7 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There was about one death per 100,000 people in the last 7 days, which was down about 21% from the previous 7 days, according to JHU’s data.

Virginia has received more than $247 million in federal funding for community vaccination sites, according to the official, and there are more than 360 federally funded National Guard members supporting the state’s Covid-19 response, 1,000 pharmacies across Virginia participating in the federal pharmacy program and a community vaccination site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Norfolk. The Biden administration is also delivering vaccine doses directly to 11 community health centers in Virginia.

Northam used his remarks to celebrate Virginia lifting all Covid restrictions on restaurants, businesses, offices and other venues. He thanked Biden for his work combating the pandemic.

“As governor, I can tell you that having a partner in the White House, makes a huge, huge difference, setting clear goals as he has done, and support us with the resources we need to meet those goals. And as a doctor, I know it also makes a big difference when leadership respects science and follow its lead,” he said.

To vaccinate the rest of the population, White House officials have been focused on increasing accessibility to the vaccines, combating misinformation and assisting those without the resources to get vaccinated. The administration is racing to get the rest of the population vaccinated as variants spread throughout the country and threaten to derail the progress the nation has made in combating the pandemic.

Data obtained exclusively by CNN shows that interest in getting vaccinated against Covid-19 increased right after CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced two weeks ago that people who are fully vaccinated could take off their face masks indoors and outdoors, except in rare circumstances.

Later in the day, Biden addressed service members at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia, and spent much of his speech talking about his late son Beau and his service in the Delaware National Guard. Sunday will mark the sixth anniversary of Beau Biden’s passing from brain cancer.

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