President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that if the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to slow in the coming weeks, July 4th gatherings with small groups of family and friends may have to be canceled as a result.
“Back on March 11, I outlined a vision of what America could look like by the Fourth of July — an America that was much closer to normal life that we left behind more than a year ago,” Biden said last week at the White House, according to the New York Post.
“To celebrate our independence from this virus on July 4th with family and friends in small groups, we still have more to do in the months of May and June. We all need to mask up until the number of cases goes down, until everyone has a chance to get their shot,” the president warned.
More than half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but vaccination rates slowed slightly last week and new case numbers remained at around 60,000 per day despite the progress, according to reports.
Will we get to herd immunity?
As the Post noted, Biden’s initial comments in March were met with derision by conservatives, who argued that the U.S. is near herd immunity and that outdoor gatherings pose low-to-no transmission risk. “Science says small gatherings outdoors is fine,” said Ret. Adm. Brett Giroir, who served as assistant secretary of health under President Donald Trump.
Vaccine hesitancy may play a role in the recent decline in vaccination rates. According to CBS News, the most recent poll on the topic showed that around 1 in 5 U.S. adults doesn’t want the vaccine.
That number was likely only bolstered when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the coronavirus, a decision that has since been reversed.
Is anyone listening to Biden?
An 80% vaccination rate would be enough to achieve herd immunity, according to experts, and we’re well on our way there. In the meantime, it’s cute that Biden thinks he controls whether people gather for the Fourth of July — or any occasion at this stage of the pandemic.
Local and state officials may still have some say over the size of public gatherings and events, but most people have begun to see family again now that the highest risk populations have had a few months to be vaccinated, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued last month.
“The president’s proclamation was far out of step with what’s already happening across the country… The president and his advisers may need to get out more,” the Kentucky Republican said in mid-March, according to the New York Post. “Americans are already getting together in small groups outdoors in blue states and red states, in small towns and big cities. The country is not locked down waiting for July 4.”
By the Fourth of July, all adults in the U.S. will have had more than three months to receive a vaccine if they want to, and those who are fully vaccinated have more than a 99.9% chance of survival from the virus, according to early measurements.
With numbers like these, it’s hard to believe that Biden really still thinks he can force his will on the American people in the name of public health. But you can bet the president and his counterparts in the Democratic Party will keep trying to hold onto the reins for as long as they can possibly get away with it.