US: US President Joe Biden celebrated US Independence Day on Sunday with an upbeat assessment of a country he said is roaring back to post-pandemic life, even if COVID-19 has yet to be fully “vanquished.”
Speaking before a festive crowd of 1,000 guests on the White House South Lawn, Biden drew a comparison between the declaration of independence from the British Empire in 1776 and today’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus.
“Two hundred and forty five years ago, we declared our independence from a distant king. Today, we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus,” he told the crowd of invited military members and essential workers.
“We’ve gained the upper hand against this virus,” he said. But he added, “Don’t get me wrong: COVID-19 has not been vanquished. We all know powerful variants have emerged, like the Delta variant.”
Biden paid tribute to those who have lost their lives, with the staggering number of deaths in the United States now at more than 600,000.
But he struck an overwhelmingly optimistic note, suggesting that under his leadership the country — bitterly and at times violently divided during the Donald Trump Presidency — was “coming back together.”
“Over the last year, we have lived through some of our darkest days,” Biden said. “We are about to see our brightest future.”
Large crowds packed the National Mall for a huge fireworks display in yet another sign that the United States is looking to its July 4th holiday as a moment to put the virus in the rear view mirror.
During last year’s holiday, with the pandemic near its summer peak and towns across America reeling from anti-racism and anti-police protests, Washington and other big cities held only muted celebrations.
Despite the atmosphere of Sunday’s victory party, the Biden administration says it is concerned about the large numbers of people who have still not got vaccinated.
The heavily promoted White House goal of getting seven in 10 adults their first shot by Independence Day has narrowly failed.
And when it comes to full vaccinations, only 46 percent of Americans have taken the two doses.
That lag comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread.
Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC unvaccinated people now account for 99.2 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
Six in 10 respondents in a new poll by The Washington Post and ABC News give Biden positive ratings for his handling of the pandemic.