“Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era: the last vacation, the last birthday with friends, the last holiday with extended family,” Biden said, speaking from the East Room of the White House in his first prime-time address as president.
“A year filled with a loss of life, and a loss of living for all of us,” he said.
While Biden said there was a “good chance” that friends and families will be able to safely gather together in small groups to celebrate July Fourth, he cautioned that for that to happen, Americans would need to get vaccinated and continue to follow health guidelines, such as mask-wearing.
“After this long, hard year, that would make this Independence Day something truly special — where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,” Biden said.
“A July Fourth with your loved ones is the goal. But with a goal, a lot can happen. Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again,” he said.
Still, Biden acknowledged that vaccine hesitance among some Americans could hamper his administration’s efforts.
“We got work to do to ensure that everyone has confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” Biden said, urging people to talk to their family, friends and neighbors about the safety of the shots.
Biden acknowledged that some people had been having difficulty navigating online resources to schedule vaccination appointments and said the administration will launch a vaccination website that will show people locations near them that have vaccines. The White House also said that it would establish a 1-800 number with vaccination information to help those without reliable internet access and that it would offer technical support to help boost states’ online systems for scheduling appointments.
An administration official said Biden personally worked on his speech along with chief of staff Ron Klain, senior adviser Mike Donilon, Vinay Reddy, the director of speechwriting, and members of the White House coronavirus response team to strike a “somber” tone to mark the one-year milestone, while also showing that “there is light.”
Biden dedicated little time in his nearly 25-minute speech to promoting the bill, which was unanimously opposed by Republicans in Congress. The White House instead planned to hold a more formal event marking the bill signing from the White House Rose Garden on Friday that is expected to include members of Congress.
Lauren Egan is a reporter for NBC News based in Washington.
Kristen Welker is chief White House correspondent for NBC News.
Shannon Pettypiece is the senior White House reporter for NBCNews.com.