WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is using his first prime time address to talk to the nation about progress in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and what’s ahead.
Tonight, he will direct states to make all American adults eligible to receive the vaccine no later than May 1, according to a senior administration official.
Biden will give his address from the Oval Office one year after lockdowns started at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 and hours after the president signed his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package into law.
Follow along for the latest updates through the night.
Biden about to begin his first prime time address to nation
President Joe Biden will soon deliver his first prime time speech as president at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Biden is expected to tout the content of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he signed into law hours earlier. The address will kick off an outreach campaign explaining the massive spending package.
The legislation includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for individuals, billions to help schools and colleges reopen, and funding for vaccine distribution.
Biden’s address comes exactly one year after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. The virus has left more than 530,000 Americans dead.
— Savannah Behrmann
‘The virus will not have a chance’: Trump’s prime-time speech a year ago
Hours after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic on March 11, 2020, then-President Donald Trump delivered a nearly 10-minute speech from the Oval Office to announce the suspension of travel from Europe and allay mounting concerns about the spread of the deadly coronavirus across the country.
“Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow,” he said. “The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared, or more resilient than the United States.”
A year later, President Joe Biden will deliver his first prime-time speech to address the nearly 530,000 American lives lost – the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll – to mark the grim anniversary of the day the U.S. shut down and announce a series of steps his administration is taking to get the pandemic under control.
Biden, who is expected to reflect on a devastating year that made millions of Americans jobless, shuttered schools and resulted in one of the largest economic crises in U.S. history, will contrast his efforts with those of his predecessor, who repeatedly insisted the virus would “go away.”
Trump, who once declared himself a “wartime president,” said he would use the “full power of the government” to combat the coronavirus crisis. But the Trump administration’s patchwork response relied heavily on states to procure their own the equipment and testing, describing the federal government as playing a “backup” role in the coronavirus crisis. Trump also politicized the use of face masks, which health experts say is critical to curbing the spread of COVID-19.
“We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship and unify together as one nation, and one family,” Trump said a year ago as the pandemic first gripped the country.
After months of sober messaging on when the U.S. might return to a sense of normalcy, Biden will instead focus on a more hopeful future in which Americans may be able to spend the Fourth of July in small groups. He’ll also announce a series of actions that the government will take in order to ramp up vaccine distribution,, including directing the Health and Human Services Department to order states to open up vaccine eligibility for all Americans no later than May 1.
— Courtney Subramanian
Biden to say small gatherings possible by July 4
In his address to the nation, President Joe Biden will announce new steps to speed up vaccinations while directing states to make all adults eligible for a COVID-19 shot no later than May 1.
If everyone does his or her part, Biden is expected to say, it’s likely that Americans will be able to gather in small groups to celebrate the Fourth of July, according to a senior administration official.
More:Biden to direct states to make all adults eligible for COVID vaccine by May 1, official says
The new initiatives Biden will announce include:
- Expanding the pool of those qualified to administer vaccines to include dentists, paramedics, veterinarians, physician assistants, medical students and others. A new website will make it easier for those qualified to volunteer.
- Creating by May 1 a federally supported website and a call center to help people make vaccinations appointments.
- Providing technical support to state-run websites for vaccinations.
- Deploying an additional more than 4,000 active duty troops to help run vaccination sites, bringing the total to more than 6,000.
- Increasing the number of community health centers and pharmacies where vaccines are available.
- Directing pharmacies to expand mobile operations to reach hard hit communities.
- More than doubling the number of federally run, mass vaccination centers.
- Helping schools implement regular COVID testing.
- Expanding the ability to test for COVID-19 variants.
— Maureen Groppe
Poll: Americans say worst of pandemic is over
A year after COVID-19 shut down the country, Americans are starting to feel that better days are ahead.
More than three-quarters (77%) say the worst of the pandemic is behind us, according to a new CNN poll. That’s a 26-point increase since late August, the previous high point of optimism in the past year. Just 19% say the worst is yet to come.
A quarter of Americans (25%) said the economy is starting to return from the downturn caused by the pandemic. Some 42% said the economy hasn’t started to recover, but conditions have stabilized; 30% said the economy is still in a downturn and conditions are worsening.
Biden gets high marks for his handling of the COVID outbreak, with 67% expressing a lot or some confidence in his ability to lead the country out of the pandemic. Yet just 43% said he has a clear plan for restoring the economy to the way it was before the pandemic; 55% said he doesn’t.
Coronavirus is still the most important issue for many Americans (30%), a significant drop since January, when 46% listed it as their top concern. Others top concerns in the latest poll were political divisions (25%), the economy (20%), racial injustice (11%), national security (9%) and something else (3%).
The telephone poll was conducted March 3-8 by SSRS, an independent research company, from among a sample of 1,009 respondents. The margin of effort is 3.6%.
— Michael Collins
Biden’s first prime time speech to balance hope with remaining COVID challenges
As President Joe Biden worked on what he wants to say in his first prime time address to the nation on Thursday night, top of mind was the fact that it’s the first opportunity many busy Americans will have to hear directly from him how the fight against the pandemic is going.
Biden is eager to talk about the direct payments and other help for families included in the massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill he signed into law Thursday.
And he can boast about what the administration has done to speed up production of vaccines and getting shots into arms.
But Biden, who campaigned on being straight with the public about the pandemic and other challenges, will also talk about the work ahead.
As he focused on getting the relief package through Congress, Biden also reviewed drafts of the speech, making changes “to ensure that he is striking the right tone,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in her afternoon news briefing.
“He plans to provide a clear outline of his approach, level with the American people about what is required of them, but also provide a sense of hope of what is possible,” she said.
Biden will also try to be specific about the help coming through the new legislation.
Psaki called the president an “anti-acronym advocate.”
“When he goes through speeches like this, he asks questions that I can imagine friends of mine and family members of mine might ask,” she said. “`What do you mean by that? and `When you say that, how will I get access to that?’”
— Maureen Groppe
White House creates web page highlighting COVID relief
If you’ve got questions about how President Joe Biden’s coronavirus-relief package might affect you, the White House has launched a web page that provides some of the answers.
The page, which can be found on the White House website, details different parts of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, including information on vaccine distribution, reopening schools and how Americans will receive their $1,400 direct checks.
There’s also a link where Americans can share a video to tell their story and explain how the COVID relief will help them.
The page is part of the White House’s extensive outreach campaign to explain the massive spending package to the public. The campaign will include road trips by the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the administration.
— Michael Collins
Biden goes on ‘Help is Here’ tour
In the days and weeks after Biden’s speech, he and other members of his administration will be fanning out across the country in what the White House is calling a “Help is Here” tour to explain the aid package.
Biden himself will go first to Pennsylvania, his home state as well as one that was critical to his 2020 victory.
After that Tuesday trip, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will go to Georgia on Friday.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rapheal Warnock won Georgia’s two runoff Senate races in January, giving Democrats control of the Senate. That allowed them to pass the COVID relief bill without any support from Republicans.
“We keep bowing to Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters after the Senate approved the bill Saturday.
During those Senate races, Biden – the first Democrat presidential candidate to carry Georgia since 1992 – told voters that they wouldn’t get additional stimulus checks unless they elected the Democrats.
“That’s a place where that message really resonated,” Psaki said. “It’s a place also close to his heart.”
Also traveling is first lady Jill Biden, who heads to New Jersey on Monday.
Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff will go to Nevada on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday. Emhoff will visit New Mexico on Wednesday.
Psaki said Biden will be visiting states dominated by Democrats and by Republicans, as well swing states, in the “blitz around the country” that will also include members of the Cabinet.
— Maureen Groppe