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It’s been six months since President Biden said the U.S. was close to declaring “independence from COVID-19,” and yet the pandemic still shows no signs of slowing after the country set a global record for the number of cases Monday due to the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
The U.S. reported more than 1 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, setting a global record and almost doubling the previous record set last week. Hospitalizations have also skyrocketed across the country, but deaths have held relatively steady in recent weeks.
Biden gave a speech Tuesday maintaining his position that “this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” even though breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among people who are fully vaccinated continue to rise across the country as new variants emerge.
Biden said unvaccinated people “have some reason to be alarmed” about the omicron variant and some may “needlessly die” due to their continued refusal to get the shot.
“There is no excuse — no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” he said.
The president’s remarks came exactly six months after he gave an Independence Day speech on the White House South Lawn, saying “we’ve gained the upper hand against this virus” and that Americans could go back to living their lives.
“Two hundred and 45 years ago, we declared our independence from a distant king,” he said. “Today, we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”
Biden acknowledged at the time that there was still “a lot more work to do” and that more people needed to get vaccinated in order to claim victory against the virus.
“Thanks to our heroic vaccine effort, we’ve gained the upper hand against this virus. We can live our lives, our kids can go back to school, our economy is roaring back,” he said, in part. “So, today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives. It no longer paralyzes our nation.”
Biden had tempered his remarks after failing to meet his vaccination goal of 70% of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4, 2021. Two months before his Independence Day speech, he wrote on Twitter, “In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus.”
Despite failing to meet its goal, the White House hosted a barbecue with essential workers and military families on the South Lawn on the Fourth of July. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the time that the event was being held so “friends and family can gather together to celebrate our independence from the virus.”
During his speech on July 4, the CDC was reporting that 67% of the adult population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 47% had received both doses. Now, about 74% have received their first dose, up seven percentage points, and about 62% have taken their second dose, up 15 percentage points, according to the CDC.
But the coronavirus is currently rampaging through the vaccinated population due to the high transmissibility of the omicron variant.
Biden admitted during Tuesday’s speech that those who are fully vaccinated and boosted “can still get COVID-19” but said it is “highly unlikely” that those individuals become “seriously ill.”
The president appears to have corrected his messaging after falsely claiming for months that vaccinated people can’t spread COVID-19, despite his own CDC saying since at least last April that breakthrough infections can and do occur.
“How about making sure that you’re vaccinated, so you do not spread the disease to anyone else,” the president said just last month.
Biden’s past comments about kids going back to school and the country not being paralyzed due to the virus have also not held up.
A dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and the school district over COVID-19 safety led to classes being canceled for 340,000 students this week. School districts in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Detroit also closed classrooms to in-person learning this week due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
The omicron outbreak and ongoing COVID-19 testing shortages have also paralyzed the country in many ways, including the canceling of thousands of flights over the busy holiday travel season.