There’s no better way to lead than by example. As state governments encourage residents to get vaccinated so that coronavirus restrictions can be lifted, the White House is planning its own holiday party for the Fourth of July. Back in March, President Biden suggested that small backyard Independence Day celebrations would be possible if Americans kept up the pace on vaccinations and COVID-19 precautions. With life returning to normal on a faster-than-expected timetable, administration officials have now debuted more elaborate party plans: On July 4, the White House will host an “independence from the virus” party on the South Lawn. Below is everything we know about the bash and its symbolic importance for the president’s reopening plans.
Biden’s original Fourth of July pledge
On March 11, Joe Biden made his first address to the nation as president. Delivered hours after the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan became law, it served as a victory lap for the the third stimulus and a promise that a post-pandemic future was just months away. After challenging states to open up vaccinations for all adults by May 1, Biden vowed that Americans would be able to “get together” in “small groups” for cookouts on Independence Day: “July 4th with your loved ones is the goal.”
“That will make this Independence Day something truly special,” he added, “where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
All 50 states beat Biden’s May 1 deadline for vaccinations, though a new goal set on June 1 — 70 percent of all eligible Americans vaccinated by July 4 — appears less realistic. As of June 15, only 14 states breached the 70 percent goal, and the current, slowed-down pace of vaccinations suggests the country won’t hit the mark by the summer holiday. According to an analysis by the New York Times, if the current pace of vaccinations holds steady, the U.S. will be around 67 percent vaccinated by the Fourth.
Nevertheless, Biden is forging ahead with his plans for the occasion.
What is the White House planning for July 4?
Instead of a small group of socially distanced loved ones, Biden is throwing the biggest event of his presidency, hosting many hundreds of first responders, essential workers, and military families on the South Lawn to celebrate “independence from the virus,” according to one White House official who spoke with CNN. Over 1,000 guests are expected for the cookout at 1600 Pennsylvania, where those invited will watch the fireworks over the National Mall.
What else will be going on in D.C. on the holiday?
Though they may not be able to gather in the company of the president, all Americans are invited to gather on the National Mall for fireworks. On June 15, the National Parks Service announced a 17-minute fireworks display; all are invited to attend, but “consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.” In 2020, there were still fireworks on the mall, but out-of-towners were advised not to travel to the event.
“D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors to celebrate the way we came together as a city and as a nation this year. We have shown once again that when we come together, there is nothing we can’t do,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Tuesday. “We thank President Biden and his team for acting with urgency to get the vaccine to the American people so that we could save lives, get our country open, and celebrate together once again.”
Last year, close to 80 percent of local and town fireworks displays were canceled during the second wave of the coronavirus. But the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs emailed local leaders to support plans for fireworks shows next month: “We welcome you to join us by hosting your own events to honor our freedom, salute those who have been serving on the frontlines, and celebrate our progress in fighting this pandemic.”
New York City, for one, won’t need much prodding. With almost all pandemic restrictions in the state lifted on the day the White House Fourth of July party was announced, the Macy’s fireworks display will return to its former glory, after dividing up its stash over several days last year in smaller celebrations.