Biden to host July 4 'independence from Covid' celebration at White House despite 600,000 virus deaths in US

JOE Biden will host a huge July 4 celebration at the White House next month to mark the US' effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite the US surpassing the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths on Tuesday, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July 4 will serve as a landmark moment in the country's independence from the virus.

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News of the celebration also comes as the nation is no longer expected to reach its goal of having 70 percent of all adults vaccinated by the holiday, as Biden had previously pledged.

As COVID-19 case rates and deaths drop to levels not seen since the early days of the outbreak, travel picks up and schools and businesses reopen, Biden is proclaiming “a summer of freedom” to celebrate a return to pre-pandemic life.

Biden's July 4 celebration, which will include fireworks over the National Mall, will be the biggest gathering he's hosted so far since taking office.

He plans to host 1,000 first responders, essential workers, and military service members and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout.

The White House also invited state and local governments to host their own July 4 events "to honor our freedom, salute those who have been serving on the frontlines, and celebrate our progress in fighting this pandemic."

"America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year," the Biden administration wrote in an email obtained by the Associated Press. "A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunions and celebrations."

The plan shows the dramatic shift in thinking since Biden just three months ago cautiously held out hope that people might be able to hold small cookouts by the Fourth.

“By July the 4th, 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 and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day,” he said on March 11.

“That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.”

However, thanks to a vast increase in vaccination efforts, the pace of reopening has gathered significantly since March.

Ahead of Memorial Day, the CDC relaxed its mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans.

And now officials are sighting the Fourth as the unofficial kickoff date of a new phase in the US pandemic response.

The federal government is looking to turn the page on the domestic public health crisis and focus on an economic and civic revival at home while marshaling support for vaccinations around the globe.

The upbeat announcement contrasts with the drearier reality in Europe, where Biden is on an eight-day, three-country tour.

While in Europe, Biden and other members of the G7 announced plans to provide 1 billion shots for poorer nations, with 500 million of those doses coming from the US.

Aid groups, however, said a far greater commitment is needed to defeat the virus around the globe.

The US vaccination effort is also far from over.

Fewer than 370,000 Americans are now getting their first dose on average each day, down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.

As consequence, the US is set to narrowly miss out on Biden's goal of having at least 70 percent of adults partially vaccinated by July 4.

About 65 percent of adults — roughly 174.2 million people — have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US is currently on course to grow that number to 68 percent by July 4.

Even if the country as a whole reaches the 70 percent goal next month, at least 30 states are expected to come up short of that number.

To reach his goal, Biden would need to vaccinate about 14 million more in less than three weeks.

While a few states, including Vermont and Hawaii, have reached vaccination rates over 80 percent, a number of GOP-led states are lagging far behind.

“Regardless of where we are on July Fourth, we’re not shutting down shop,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.

“On July 5th, we’re going to continue to press to vaccinate more people across the country.”

The Democratic president intends to use his remarks on July Fourth to highlight the administration’s “wartime response,” with a vaccination campaign that helped bring cases and deaths down by about 90 percent from where they were before he took office on January 20.

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