President Joe Biden speaks on the anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in America, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11.
President Joe Biden speaks on the anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in America, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden has pinned America’s hopes of a return to normal on two key dates: May 1, by when he wants all adults to be eligible to get vaccines; and July 4, when he said Americans may be able to celebrate Independence Day in person.

In his first prime-time TV address last night, Biden escalated the nation’s “war footing” to help beat the virus. He announced that he was directing all states, tribes and territories to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated by May 1, stating his administration would build out the infrastructure of clinics, vaccine doses and medical staff to make that prospect real.

But the President also asked the American people to do their part.

“I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people … I need every American to do their part,” Biden said. “I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity. And to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well.”

Biden sounded optimistic about the progress of the vaccination rollout. He moved his target for getting 100 million shots in peoples’ arms from his first 100 days in the White House to his 60th day in office, saying the US will maintain and beat its current pace of 2 million shots per day.  

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 33.9 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.

If everyone does their bit, Biden said, “By July the Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your family and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.”

But this message of unity couldn’t be further away from the battles over safety measures emerging all over the country. In Texas, State Attorney General Ken Paxton is now suing leaders in Austin for maintaining local mask requirements, saying they illegally defy the governor’s order ending a statewide mandate. 

Paxton’s lawsuit sets the stage for the latest showdown in a long-running, nationwide clash over public health rules that often breaks along political lines. Sixteen states have no statewide mask rule and there are growing divisions between local and state leaders on what public health measures should stay in place.

Experts are clear on the issue: daily case numbers in the US remain high and — as Biden’s chief medical adviser on Covid-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci put it to CBS last night — are “absolutely not” low enough to relax public health measures.

Watch President Biden's full primetime address - CNN Video