In a primetime address on the pandemic’s first anniversary, President Biden told Americans that if they do their part there's a possibility they can gather with friends and family members for barbecues by Independence Day.
But in a nation deeply divided over how people should conduct their lives amidst COVID-19, the president's remarks quickly came under scrutiny amid the ongoing debate between advocates of a more robust nanny state versus those who are eager to return to pre-Covid normalcy.
"This is a free people, this is a free country, how dare you tell us who we can spend the Fourth of July with," conservative commentator Tucker Carlson said on his Fox News program not long after Biden had concluded his speech.
"He can wait for Independence Day to meet his three best friends on the White House lawn but most of us aren't living that way," author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson said during an interview on Carlson's program.
"It was a bizarro speech ... in this bizarro world where we're all still desperately afraid of the coronavirus, where cases haven't fallen 90% since January and hospitalizations 70%, where, you know, we know exactly who's at risk from this and how most of us are at very, very low to no risk from this," Berenson said.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also characterized the speech as "bizarre."
"That was the most bizarre speech from any US President I’ve ever seen. Does Biden know about all the open states? He says everyone must get the vaccine & we might get to have a BBQ with our families on July 4th. Should we tell him most of us have been doing that the past year?" the Georgia Republican tweeted.
GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted: "If you’re waiting for permission from the chief executive to celebrate Independence Day with your family, you clearly don't grasp the concept of Independence."
During the speech Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated and said that he would instruct states, tribes and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination no later than May 1.
"First, tonight I'm announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults — people 18 and over — eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1," the president said. This "doesn't mean everyone's gonna have that shot immediately," he explained, though people can "get in line beginning May 1" and all adults will be eligible for vaccination.
"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 said. "Because here's the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn't mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together. After this long, hard year that will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus," the president said.
The Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that individuals who have been completely inoculated can visit with other vaccinated individuals inside. It also states that those who have been vaccinated can "Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing."
"So Biden says that if we're good little boys and girls, we can get together in small groups by July 4," conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, while pointing to the CDC recommendations. "In other words, he's promising something by JULY that we're already doing today. And the CDC guidance is already too restrictive by an order of magnitude. But I guess we're supposed to be grateful for any crumbs of liberty offered by his beneficent hand," Shapiro wrote.