'A summer of freedom': Vaccine gives new meaning to July 4th
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption and more than 600,000 lives lost.
The White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery, even though the U.S. is expected to fall short of its goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated by the holiday. Still, the pace of the nation's healing will be a stark contrast with the rest of the world struggling to vanquish the virus.
The planned celebration will be the largest event of Biden’s presidency and is designed to demonstrate the nation’s victory over the virus as COVID-19 cases and deaths drop to levels not seen since the first days of the outbreak. The U.S. is seeing its highest rate of air travel since the pandemic began, and schools, businesses and restaurants are rapidly reopening.
To celebrate the resumption of pre-pandemic life, Biden is looking to celebrate the July Fourth holiday as “a summer of freedom.”
He plans to host first responders, essential workers and military service members and their families on the South Lawn of the White House for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall. More than 1,000 guests are expected, officials said.
The plan shows the dramatic shift in thinking since Biden cautiously held out hope just three months ago that people might be able to hold small cookouts by the Fourth.
For most Americans, that reopening target was hit last month, by Memorial Day weekend, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people and state and local virus restrictions...