Politics|Washington Will Open Up for July 4 Fireworks. So Will Biden’s White House.
The White House will host a 1,000-person celebration on the South Lawn, even though President Biden is not on track to meet his goal of vaccinating 70 percent of Americans by July 4.
June 15, 2021
WASHINGTON — The White House will host 1,000 essential workers and military families on the South Lawn on July 4, the largest gathering of President Biden’s tenure and a celebratory display meant to signal that he delivered on a promise that Americans could expect to return to some semblance of normal life by the holiday.
The Biden administration also encouraged local leaders in Washington to hold their own celebrations, even though the United States is expected to fall short of the president’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by Independence Day.
“America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year,” White House officials wrote in an email to local leaders. “A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunions and celebrations.”
White House officials on Tuesday did not say whether guests would be required to provide proof of vaccination or testing before attending the event, but one official said that protocol and more details would be released soon.
The festivities on the South Lawn will go well beyond the scope of what Mr. Biden told Americans three months ago, when he said the country could expect to celebrate July 4 with friends and family as long as they were vaccinated and did not prematurely abandon mask wearing, social distancing and other coronavirus precautions.
“July 4 with your loved ones is the goal,” he said at the time. “This is not the time to let up.”
The modest expectations Mr. Biden laid out in that speech have given way to the largest planned event of his presidency, one intended to emphasize the speed at which Americans were able to get their shots and the federal government was able to create a process that provides a vaccine for anyone who wants one.
The National Park Service said that visitors would be encouraged to attend a fireworks display on the National Mall and that all nearby monuments would be open. (Last year, attendees were advised to stay socially distanced and to avoid traveling to the capital.)
Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington on Tuesday issued a statement that “D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors” for the holiday.
“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,” the mayor said.
The White House event will not resemble President Donald J. Trump’s tank-festooned affairs. Last year, as coronavirus cases soared in the United States, he largely ignored pleas from health officials discouraging Americans from traveling and gathering in large groups. Mr. Trump traveled to Mount Rushmore to deliver a speech to a maskless crowd of supporters, then returned to Washington for a 35-minute fireworks show.
The Biden administration will take a more measured approach. (The fireworks show on the National Mall this year will be half as long, for starters.) The pandemic continues to kill, and federal health officials are sounding alarms about more infectious variants of the coronavirus that are circulating in the United States. The administration is struggling to encourage Americans resistant to vaccinations, including the young and healthy, to get a shot.
While traveling in Europe this week, Mr. Biden has acknowledged the tremendous loss that Americans endured during the pandemic, as the United States neared 600,000 virus deaths.
“I know that black hole that seems to consume you, that fills up your chest when you lose someone that’s close to you, that you adored,” he said on Monday in Brussels.
“Please get vaccinated as soon as possible,” he added. “We’ve had enough pain.”
Still, with a recent slowdown in vaccination rates, particularly in the South, Mr. Biden may not reach his July 4 vaccination goal. If the rate of adult vaccination continues on the seven-day average, the nation will come in just shy of his target, with about 67 percent of adults partly vaccinated by the holiday, according to a New York Times analysis.
In recent days, administration officials have started to subtly shift their responses when asked if that goal will be met.
“There’s no question it’s a bold and ambitious goal,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters last week. “Regardless of where we are on July 4, we’re not shutting down shop. On July 5, we’re going to continue to press to vaccinate more people across the country.”
Ms. Psaki added that the administration would be focusing heavily on people under 40, who have received vaccinations at lower rates than people over 40. The White House has tried to entice younger Americans by partnering with ride-share services and dating apps that can offer free services to people who would like to receive a shot.
Lazaro Gamio contributed reporting from Washington, and Daniel E. Slotnik from New York.