President Biden has said he hopes Americans can ‘return to normalcy’ by the end of this year.
Biden’s wish was aired during a visit to a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Friday, as the number of people in hospital with the coronavirus dipped below 60,000 for the first time since November, with 2,477 daily deaths having been recorded.
The levels are now similar to earlier peak levels of hospitalizations that were seen before the surges of last spring and summer.
‘I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year and this Christmas will be different than last but I can’t make that commitment to you. There are other strains of the virus,’ Biden said.
President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the vaccine roll-out. He toured a state-of-the-art coronavirus vaccine plant on Friday and said he hoped for ‘normalcy’ by Christmas
here are currently 59,882 people in hospital with the virus. The levels are now similar to earlier peak levels of hospitalizations seen before surges last spring and summer
The president said he wanted to be ‘straight’ with the American people and noted that a number of issues including weather events, new variants of the virus and manufacturing delays could all pose significant challenges to the vaccination process.
‘We don’t know what could happen in terms of production rates. Things could change but we’re going to be doing everything the science has dictated we should do.
‘I believe we’re on the road, I promise you. I know we’ll run into bumps. It’s not going to be easy here to the end, but we’re going to beat this. We’re going to beat this,’ Biden said.
In a message aimed directly at Americans, the president pleaded for everyone to get vaccinated.
‘If there is one message to cut through to everyone in this country it is this – the vaccines are safe. Please. For yourself, your family, your community, your country. Take the vaccine when it’s your turn and available. That’s how to beat this pandemic.’
President Joe Biden (right) addresses reporters as he tours a Michigan Pfizer plant alongside the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left)
The president said there would soon be massive sites set up that would be offering vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He referred to the vaccination process as a challenge that will be ‘the most difficult logistical effort the United States has ever taken in peacetime.’
‘We will have distributed more than 600 million doses by the end of July. July 29th is the expected date but that could change. Look what’s happening with the weather right now which is slowing the distribution.’
The president also took the opportunity to criticize Donald Trump.
Pfizer exployees loaded vaccine doses into freezers during President Joe Biden’s Michigan tour on Friday
‘My predecessor, as my mother would say, God love em’, failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers,’ Biden said.
He also remarked, ‘You can’t build a wall or a fence high enough to keep a pandemic out,’ in another brief slap at the ex-president.
Biden was joined on his tour of the vaccine production facility by Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as well coronavirus taskforce director Jeffrey Zients, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla and the facility’s production lead, Shawn Hamilton.
Bourla announced at the top of the president’s remarks that Pfizer would be more than doubling their production capacity in the next couple of weeks, from the current average of 5 million doses per week.
‘We are on track to provide the U.S. government, a total of 120 million doses by the end of March and to reach 200 million doses released by the end of May, two months ahead of the original schedule of that milestone,’ Bourla said.
President Joe Biden (left), Jeffrey Zients (center left), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center right) and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (right) tour the Pfizer vaccine plant Friday in Michigan
‘Of course today during this meeting the president challenged us to identify additional ways in which his administration could help us potentially accelerate even further the delivery of the full 300 million doses earlier than July.’
Biden, who spoke to a number of Pfizer workers as he toured the plant, talked how ‘personal’ that pandemic is, as one of them expressed that a father-in-law was dying of COVID. The president said he offered to make a call, but the ailing patient wouldn’t have heard it.
He also spoke of the horrific death count, as the U.S. nears 500,000 deaths.
Friday’s deaths saw the total reach 495,693 lives lost.
‘That is almost 70,000 more than all the Americans who died in World War II over a four year period,’ Biden noted. ‘All the sorrow, all the heartache, all the pain.’
He begged Americans to continue washing their hands, staying socially distant and wearing masks.
‘Look I know it’s inconvenient, but you’re making a difference when you do it,’ the president encouraged. ‘Everything we do matters. We need everyone to do their part for themselves, for their loved ones and yes, for your country.’
‘It’s a patriotic duty,’ he said.
Biden also used the speech to put some heat on Republicans in Congress who are resisting spending $1.9 trillion on COVID-19 relief.
‘I’m grateful that the Senate and the House are moving quickly,’ Biden said. ‘And I’m prepared to hear their ideas on how to make the package better and make it cheaper. I’m open to that.’
Biden touted that the plan could create 7 million jobs this year, and then asked GOP lawmakers what they would cut from the ambitious package that they think is ‘too big.’
‘Let me ask them, what would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out?’ Biden demanded. ‘Should we not invest $20 billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 million to extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans who are unemployed so they can get by?’
‘Should we not invest $50 billion to help small businesses stay open when tens of thousands have had to close permanently?’ he asked.
What about schools, Biden pondered, pointing out that the plan calls for $130 million to go toward schools opening safely.
‘Right now 24 million adults, 11 million children don’t have enough food to eat,’ the president also pointed out.
‘Unless you think I’m exaggerating, think of those scenes you’ve seen on the television, with cars lined up that seemed like miles to wait to have someone put a box of food in their trunk,’ Biden said. ‘People who never ever ever ever ever thought they would need help.’
He said if his American rescue plan isn’t passed, 40 millin Americans were in danger of losing their SNAP benefits.
‘Can we not invest $3 billion to help families from going hungry?’ the president mused.
Biden also stated the stat that one in five Americans are behind in their rent and one in 10 are behind on mortgages.
‘This is the United States of America, for God sake. We invest in people. Who are in need,’ he said. ‘Can we not invest $35 billion to help people keep a roof over their heads?’
‘I could go on,’ Biden said, ‘But you get the point.’