Biden, turning to the coronavirus section of his speech, walked a fine line in laying out a four-point plan for continuing to fight the pandemic.
The president said he would remain committed to providing vaccines and treatments, accelerating the fight against variants, avoiding school and business closures, and continuing to vaccinate the world.
The White House and many Democrats are eager to show progress in the fight against the virus, especially as support for Biden’s handling of the pandemic fades and issues such as school closures are expected to to be hotly debated in this year’s midterm elections. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its mask recommendations, leading to a startlingly different visual at this year’s address compared to Biden’s remarks last year in Congress, where lawmakers were masked.
But many public health experts worry the administration is moving too quickly to scale back protections during a pandemic that is still claiming nearly 2,000 U.S. deaths a day. Immunocompromised Americans are at high risk, and many people still report complications weeks or months after their initial infections.
“We’re not leaving anyone behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward,” Biden said, trying to reassure doubters.
Biden also appeared to edit his comments in real time.
The text prepared for the speech said that scientists are “working hard” to authorize vaccines for young children, “and we will be ready with a lot of vaccines when they do”. But Biden changed that to “if and when they do” – a reflection of how federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration have sometimes bristled at White House vaccination plans, saying political appointees were too hasty to promise reminders the year last, for example.