Virginia welcomed the president and first lady for remarks Friday on the cusp of vaccinating 70% of its population against Covid-19 — a trend the White House hopes to see nationwide by July 4.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — On route to his native Delaware for Memorial Day weekend, President Joe Biden stopped in nearby Virginia with the first lady Friday to tout the progress that the commonwealth — and indeed the nation — has seen in beating back Covid-19.
At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Virginia finally relaxed its social distancing and mask requirements for all businesses, restaurants and related venues.
“After a very long year, there’s finally a bright light at the end of the tunnel,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said as he welcomed the presidential couple.
Appearing at Sportrock Climbing Centers in the quiet northern Virginia suburb just a stone’s throw from the White House, the president spoke to throngs of young people and rock-climbing enthusiasts who gathered inside of the facility for the brief remarks.
“When I took office, we were averaging 184,000 cases per day nationwide,” Biden said. “Virginia schools were closed. Main street went quiet. Virginia Tech didn’t play in a ball game this winter for the first time in 28 years, and so many joys of life large and small had been halted by a long dark winter.”
Indeed, on January 20, Virginia held the record for the ninth-highest rate of Covid-19 cases in the nation. On Friday, Virginia now ranks 41. Where the death rate in Virginia this January was about 3.6 people dead per 100,000, the mortality rate today is now just 1.1 per 100,000 people, a trend downward of about 17% just in the last week.
Vaccines against the novel virus have also reduced the hospitalization rate in Virginia. When Biden was inaugurated, there were 2,132 confirmed hospitalizations from Covid recorded that wintery week. On Friday, the commonwealth has reported just 344 people hospitalized in the last week, a 19% decrease from the week before.
Vaccines have been steadily flowing in America since the Biden administration swept into the White House, with the U.S. pandemic response strategy shifting in short order. In place of the patchwork tactics of the Trump administration where a decentralized response reined supreme, Biden has augured in a more free-flowing federal-state partnership and assistance program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that about 165 million Americans have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and that includes those who have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as those who are undergoing the two-dose course offered from Moderna and PfizerBioNTech.
“Today, we’ve gone from 184,000 cases per day nationwide to fewer than 22,000,” Biden said.
Deaths have dropped by 85%. Tens of thousands of grandmoms, grandpops, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, neighbors, friends, are still with us today who would have otherwise been lost.
But the work isn’t done just yet.
With 62% of adults having received at least one shot and 51% considered fully vaccinated, Biden’s goal of inoculating at least 70% of adults by July 4 is nearly within reach. Ten states have already reached the 70% milestone. Virginia is estimated to be mere weeks away from hitting that goal.
“If we succeed, we can celebrate our independence from the virus together as we celebrate our independence as a nation,” Biden said.