President Biden during his first primetime address on Thursday announced steps to accelerate America's vaccine rollout, including calling on states to make all American adults eligible for Covid-19 vaccines by May 1.
Biden announces steps to speed up America's vaccine rollout
Biden's speech came only a few hours after he signed into law a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, exactly one year after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.
During his 23-minute speech, Biden announced the actions his administration plans to take to speed up the country's vaccine rollout, which he said could help "mark our independence from this virus" by the Fourth of July.
For example, Biden said his administration will direct state, local, and tribal governments to make all American adults eligible for Covid-19 vaccines by May 1. Biden's aides said the administration plans to use HHS' authority to make that order binding and mandatory, STAT News reports.
"Let me be clear, that doesn't mean everyone's going to have that shot immediately, but it means you'll be able to get in line beginning May 1," he said.
Biden said his administration also plans to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal government's vaccination program; deploy 4,000 more active-duty troops to assist with vaccination efforts; expand the kinds of professionals allowed to administer vaccines to include dentists, medical students, paramedics, physician assistants, veterinarians, and others; more the double the number of federally operated mass vaccination sites; and ship vaccines to additional community health centers.
Further, Biden said his administration will launch a new website and call center to help Americans find vaccination sites with available supplies and will provide states with technical support to improve their websites for scheduling vaccine appointments.
During his speech, Biden called on Americans to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated as soon as they're eligible for a shot. However, Biden noted that the United States will not be able to contain the epidemic via vaccinations alone. Biden urged Americans to remain vigilant about practicing public health measures aimed at slowing the coronavirus's spread.
This is "not the time to not stick with the rules," Biden said, warning that the United States could face rising infections if people stop following mitigation measures.
"If we do this together, by July the Fourth, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day," Biden said.
States expand vaccine eligibility
Biden's call for states to expand vaccine eligibility comes as a few states already have broadened eligibility for Covid-19 vaccines.
For example, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) on Tuesday announced all Alaska residents ages 16 and older are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Wednesday said the state would allow residents ages 18 and older to get vaccinated beginning April 1.
In addition, some local governments have expanded vaccine eligibility. Gila County in Arizona, for instance, allows all residents 18 and older to receive a vaccine.
Meanwhile, other state officials have suggested they may soon make similar moves. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday said all Florida residents may become eligible for the vaccine in April if vaccine supply increases. Similarly, Minnesota and Utah officials have said they expect to open vaccine appointments up to all residents in the coming months.
Where America's coronavirus epidemic and vaccine rollout stand
According to data compiled by the New York Times, U.S. officials on Wednesday reported about 62,689 new cases of the novel coronavirus. As of Friday morning, officials had reported about 29.3 million cases since the United States' epidemic began.
According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 56,613—down by 18% compared with the average from two weeks ago.
However, the Times' data showed that, as of Friday morning, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Washington, D.C., and 13 states that have reported a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Vermont.
In addition, the rate of newly reported coronavirus cases was "going up" as of Friday morning in Hawaii, Maine, and Puerto Rico, which have had comparatively lower case rates, the Times reports.
According to the data, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" or declining from previously higher rates in the remaining U.S. states and territories.
Meanwhile, U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19 have reached their lowest level since October 2020. According to data from the Times, there were 43,254 Americans with Covid-19 hospitalized for treatment on Wednesday—down by 28% compared with the average from two weeks ago.
Further, data from the Times shows that U.S. officials reported about 1,522 new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, officials had reported about 530,351 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began.
The recent declines in newly reported coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths come as America's coronavirus vaccine rollout continues to ramp up.
CDC data shows that, as of Friday morning, the federal government had distributed about 131.1 million doses of the country's authorized Covid-19 vaccines. Of those, about 98.2 million doses had been administered in the United States. That total includes about 64 million people who have received "at least one dose" of a vaccine and about 33.8 million who've been "fully vaccinated," the data shows.
(Restuccia/Siddiqui, Wall Street Journal, 3/11; Facher, STAT News, 3/11; Miller/Lemire, Associated Press, 3/12; Cancryn/Din, Politico, 3/11; Rogers, New York Times, 3/11; Durkee, Forbes, 3/11; Musgrave, Palm Beach Post, 3/11; New York Times, 3/11).