On the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, President Joe Biden delivered a 24-minute primetime address that even The Washington Post called “light on facts.”
Biden’s first major address since his inauguration marked both the halfway point to 100 days of the Biden presidency and the official one-year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic, declared by the World Health Organization to be a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Not to miss an opportunity to gratuitously blame the pandemic on his predecessor, Biden opened by saying, “A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.” Along with lives, milestones, and time together, Biden said, “we lost faith in whether our government and our democracy can deliver on really hard things for the American people.”
In the remarks, Biden previewed his planned next steps in the Coronavirus response:
- Making all adults eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine no later than May 1.
- Launching new tools to help Americans to find their shot.
- Accelerating efforts to reopen schools.
- Releasing new guidance on “what you can and cannot do once fully vaccinated.” (That’s right, the U.S. government will be instructing citizens what they can and cannot do once they are vaccinated against a disease.)
Biden also forecast July 4 as the landmark for reuniting at in-person gatherings.
“July 4 with your loved ones is the goal,” he said. “But a lot can happen. Conditions can change . . . Just as we were emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules.”
The Post fact-check highlighted two claims that were flatly untrue: Biden claimed that American deaths due to Coronavirus totaled “more deaths than in World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.” These numbers simply are not correct. Around 583,000 people died in those events combined, while 527,726 Americans are recorded as having died from the Coronavirus.
Biden also claimed, “I set a goal that many you said was a kind of way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first hundred days in office.”
The Post noted:
The Trump administration improved its performance as it counted down to Trump’s last days in office. Vaccinations had reached a seven-day average of 980,000 by the time Biden took office — virtually the goal Biden initially set for himself. The Biden administration has now managed to more than double that daily total, but Biden was in the position of being assured of winning the race even before he started it.
This is consistent with Biden’s habit of cherry-picking Trump accomplishments and moving them to the Biden column. Biden’s 100-day ambition was not largely criticized for being “over the top” because the framework for that very achievement was already in place.
President Donald Trump’s aims were, though. “Trump promises coronavirus vaccine by end of the year, but his own experts temper expectations,” ABC reported in May. “Trump fixates on the promise of a coronavirus vaccine — real or not,” the Post reported in September.
All in all, Thursday night’s address was a reprise of Biden’s signature COVID messaging equation:
- The government is doing everything it possibly can.
- It’s up to the American people to follow the rules.
- Whatever we do is a triumph compared to the last administration—and anything they accomplished belongs to Biden now.