Pandemic rages on long after Biden declared 'independence from COVID-19' in July

Biden had advised vaccinated individuals to remove their masks in May, before the Delta variant resulted in the return of mask mandates.

Updated: December 18, 2021 - 11:01pm

The COVID-19 pandemic rages on with cases surging throughout the country long after President Biden declared "independence" from the virus in July.

"Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together," Biden said in a July 4 speech. "Today, while the virus hasn't been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives, it no longer paralyzes our nation and it’s within our power to make sure it never does so again."

Biden referred to July 4 as a celebration of "independence from COVID-19," leading some to question whether the administration was taking bows for its handling of the virus too soon.

Prior to the independence speech, Biden had advised vaccinated individuals to remove their masks in May, before the Delta variant resulted in the return of indoor mask mandates.

"Let's remember that we are all in this together," Biden said on May 13. "If you're fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you've earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile. So, it's a good day for the country. We aren't done yet. We're still losing too many Americans because we still have too many unvaccinated people."

Mask mandates have not been removed in many areas with high numbers of cases as the Omicron strain continues to spread.

In an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, the Biden administration had attempted to impose federal vaccine mandates in various forms, which have met with widespread state legal challenges and a mixed record in federal courts. On Friday, a 6th Circuit federal appeals court panel reinstated an administration vaccine mandate on private companies with at least 100 employees, dissolving a stay on the mandate issued by the 5th Circuit and setting up a likely Supreme Court showdown.

On Thursday, in a move that is shaking confidence in the credibility of federal public health authorities, an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to recommend that the public receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines instead of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing cases of a rare blood-clotting disorder linked to the latter.

The nation recently marked 800,000 COVID-related deaths, and public health officials are warning that cases will continue to surge throughout the winter months. 

"Please get yourself and your school-age children vaccinated," Biden said this week. "I urge all Americans: Do your patriotic duty to keep our country safe, to protect yourself and those around you, and to honor the memory of all those we have lost. Now is the time."

When President Biden took office, there were approximately 460,000 COVID-related deaths, according to data recorded through Jan. 21, 2021.

Biden's approval rating has taken a hit over his handling of the pandemic and the economy.

Despite passage of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the economy still hasn't fully recovered. The November jobs report was significantly lower than the previous month, and the country is facing inflation and supply chain disruptions. Some experts are warning about the return of stagflation.

Despite inflation hitting its highest level in nearly 40 years, Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress are moving forward with the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act, which creates a slew of new federal benefit programs, such as universal pre-K, and pours about $550 billion into climate change initiatives.

The bill continues the expanded Child Tax Credit of up to $3,600, at an estimated cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years. It eliminates the state and local tax deduction cap of $10,000 at a cost of $220 billion over 5 years. Democrats are using budget reconciliation as a way to pass the legislation with only votes from Democrats in the Senate.

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a key vote, has expressed concerns about passing a massive spending bill while the nation grapples with inflation and supply chain blockages during the pandemic.