Is Biden Declaring ‘Independence From the Virus’ Too Soon?

Less than half the country is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and the contagious Delta variant is spreading. Still, the White House is putting together an “America’s Back Together” celebration for July 4.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s plan to celebrate “independence from the virus” on the Fourth of July is running into an unpleasant reality: Less than half the country is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the highly contagious Delta variant is threatening new outbreaks.

The president and Jill Biden, the first lady, have invited 1,000 military personnel and essential workers to an Independence Day bash on the South Lawn of the White House. Mr. Biden and his advisers, eager to claim credit for the virus’ retreat in the United States, are talking about a “summer of joy and freedom.”

Mr. Biden will visit Traverse City, Mich., on Saturday as part of what the White House calls the “America’s Back Together” celebration. Dr. Biden will also take to the road, as will Vice President Kamala Harris, her husband, Doug Emhoff, and various cabinet officials who will attend festivals, parades and cookouts around the nation.

But public health experts fear that scenes of cross-country celebrations — including a White House party with a liberation theme — will send the wrong message when wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable and true independence from the worst public health crisis in a century may be a long way off.

“We’re still in the middle of this marathon,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. Despite considerable progress in decreasing the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States over the past few months, he said, it remains too early to “unfurl the ‘mission accomplished’ banner.”

Suggesting that the country is moving past the pandemic is a delicate task for Mr. Biden and his fellow Democrats, who must balance caution with bolstering the economy and getting national morale back on track.

The Democratic National Committee this week released an upbeat ad entitled “America’s Coming Back.” Its spokeswoman wrote on Twitter that the “America’s Back” mobile — a bus with the president’s image on it — would be traveling the country and offering free Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, a gourmet brand favored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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