For Americans, the day the corona pandemic became serious was March 11, 2020. On the morning of that Wednesday, the stock market collapsed because of fear of the virus, and in the afternoon the basketball season was canceled due to the first infections among players . In the evening, then President Donald Trump gave a speech to the confused nation, in which he announced that air traffic between the United States and Europe would practically be suspended.
In between, America’s favorite actor Tom Hanks spoke up on Instagram to let the world know that he and his wife had been infected with the new virus. And the country wondered who would be safe if even Forrest Gump could get infected.
Exactly one year later, on March 11, 2021, the US President again delivered a speech to the nation. But this time it wasn’t Donald Trump, but Joe Biden. And the message he had to convey on Thursday evening was decidedly more optimistic. The US, Biden said, is well on its way to containing the pandemic and overcoming the virus. If all goes well, the Americans could already have a barbecue in the garden with their family and friends on July 4th, Independence Day – not in large groups, but at least in small ones. “We can then not only celebrate the independence of our country, but also our independence from this virus,” said Biden.
Independence Day, the national holiday, was the one hopeful date that Biden said in his speech. The other was May 1st. By then, the president said, all adult citizens in all states must be eligible to get a vaccination. At the moment the differences are still big, in some countries practically everyone is allowed to make an appointment for a vaccination, in others it is still strictly sorted according to age and profession.
More than two million people are vaccinated every day
This, according to the President’s instructions, must end by May 1st at the latest. “That doesn’t mean that all citizens will be vaccinated by that day,” Biden clarified. But the US government bought enough vaccine doses to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of May – much earlier than previously planned.
That is an ambitious goal, but not an illusory one. In the United States, more than two million people are vaccinated each day. According to the White House, 25 percent of all adults have now received a first dose of vaccine, around 13 percent have been vaccinated. For people older than 65 or 75, the proportion of those vaccinated is three to four times higher.
Biden reported these numbers on Tuesday with evident pride. He also specifically mentioned that it had only taken 50 days to reach these numbers since he was sworn in on Jan. 20. Although he did not criticize his predecessor Trump by name, he made no secret of his opinion that he had ignored the pandemic and its consequences. The first few months were characterized by “silence and repression”, said Biden. He has now put the country into a “state of war” in order to fight the virus by all means.
In order to vaccinate the rest of the population as quickly as possible, the US government will involve “thousands” of additional helpers in the vaccination campaign, announced Biden. 2,000 soldiers are already helping with the vaccinations, and 4,000 more are to be added. In addition, practically everyone who has ever learned to stick a syringe in the upper arm will be given the authority to carry out corona vaccinations: dentists and ophthalmologists, medical assistants, midwives, paramedics, even veterinarians. Whether human or animal – a syringe is a syringe.
In addition, further vaccination centers are to be set up, mobile vaccination teams are to be sent and the pharmacies are to be more involved. These are particularly important for health care in the United States. Most large supermarket chains like Walmart have their own pharmacy departments that offer flu vaccinations, for example. This infrastructure can reach millions of citizens in remote, rural areas, which often do not even have a clinic.
That was the view Biden offered his compatriots: It could get worse again, he warned. But if everyone got vaccinated, if everyone kept their distance for the time being and, above all, wore a face mask, the end of the pandemic is in sight.
A piece of paper with a number: 527 726
However, Biden would not be Biden if he had not also looked back in his speech at the misery, grief and pain that the virus has brought on Americans. If there’s one trait that characterizes Joe Biden, it’s empathy. The president lost his first wife, daughter and son, he knows what that means and how it hurts. And so, while he was speaking, Biden took a piece of paper out of his jacket and read a number: 527 726. That is the number of Americans who had died of the coronavirus by March 11, 2021 – “more than in the first and Second World War, in Vietnam and on 9/11 together, “said Biden.
The President always has this current death number with him, it is written anew every day on the back of his appointment overview. For Biden, it’s a reminder of what his most important job is: protecting his compatriots and defeating the virus.
“We have lost many lives,” said Biden, “and we have lost a great deal of life.” Fancy birthdays and weddings, grandparents who couldn’t hug their grandchildren, kids who couldn’t go to school or see their friends. “We have lost dreams and time.” But now America is coming back, said Biden. “It’s always a bad idea to bet against the American people.”