Good evening, my fellow Americans. Tonight I would like to talk to you about where we are as we mark one year since everything stopped because of this pandemic. A year ago, we were hit with the 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.
Photos and videos from 2019 feel like they were taken in another era – the last vacation, the last birthday with friends, the last holiday with extended family. While it was different for everyone, we all lost something a collective suffering, collective sacrifice, a year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us, but in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect and gratitude.
Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do, and that is what we have done. We have seen front-line and essential workers risking their lives, sometimes losing them to save and help others; researchers and scientists bracing for a vaccine; and so many of you, as Hemingway wrote, being strong in all of the broken places. I know it´s been hard; I truly know.
As I’ve told you before, I carry a card in my pocket with a number of Americans who have died from COVID to date; it´s on the back of my schedule. As of now, total deaths in America 527,726. That´s more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined. They were husbands, wives, sons and daughters, grandparents, friends, neighbors, young and old. They leave behind loved ones unable to truly grieve or to heal, even have a funeral, but I´m also thinking about everyone else who lost this past year to natural causes by cruel fate of accident or other disease. They, too, died alone. They, too, leave behind loved ones who are hurting badly.
You know you’ve often heard me say before I talk about the longest walk any parent can make is up a short flight of stairs to his child´s bedroom to say I’m sorry I lost my job, can’t be here anymore, like my dad told me when he lost his job in Scranton. So many of you had to make that same walk this past year; you lost your job, you closed your business, facing eviction, homelessness, hunger, the loss of control, maybe worst of all the loss of hope.
Watching a generation of children who may be set back up to a year or more because they have not been in school because of their loss of learning. It´s the details of life that matter the most, and we miss those details, the big details and the small moments, weddings, birthdays, graduations; all of the things that needed to happen but didn’t – a first date, the family reunions, the Sunday night rituals, it´s all exacted a terrible cost on the psyche of so many of us.
For we are fundamentally a people who want to be with others to talk, to laugh, to hug, to hold one another, but this virus has kept us apart. Grandparents haven´t seen their children or grandchildren; parents haven´t seen their kids; kids haven´t seen their friends. The things we used to do that always filled us with joy have become things we couldn’t do and broke our hearts. Too often, we’ve turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives sometimes, it divides us. States pitted against one another instead of working with each other; vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.
At this very moment, so many of them – our fellow Americans on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives – and still, still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It´s wrong, it´s un-American, and it must stop.
Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus; tell the truth, follow the scientists, the science, work together, put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people – no function more important. We need to remember the government isn´t some foreign force in a distant capital; no, it´s us, all of us. We, the people.
For you and I, that America thrives when we give our hearts, when we turn our hands to common purpose, and right now, my friends, we are doing just that, and I have to say, as your President, I´m grateful to you. Last summer, I was in Philadelphia, and I met a small-business owner, a woman, and I asked her, I said, “What do you need most?” Never forget what she said to me. She said, she looked me in the eye, and she said, “I just want the truth, the truth, just tell me the truth.”
Think of that. My fellow Americans, you are owed nothing less than the truth. And for all of you asking when things will get back to normal, here is the truth: The only way to get our lives back, to get our economy back on track is to beat the virus. You have been hearing me say that for – while I was running and the last 50 days I have been President, but this is one of the most complex operations we have ever undertaken as a nation in a long time.
That´s why I´m using every power I have as President of the United States to put us on a war footing to get the job done. It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean the war footing, and thank God we are making some real progress now. In my first full day in office, I outlined for you a comprehensive strategy to beat this pandemic. We have spent every day since attempting to carry it out.
Two months ago, a country – this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or near all of the American public, but soon we will. We have been working with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses of these three safe, effective vaccines, and now at the direction and with the assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is working together with a competitor, Merck, to speed up and increase the capacity to manufacture new Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is one shot.
In fact, just yesterday I announced, and I met with the CEOs of both companies, I announced our plan to buy an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. These two companies, competitors, have come together for the good of the nation, and they should be applauded for it. It´s truly a national effort, just like we saw during World War II. Now because all of the work we’ve done, we will have enough vaccines for all adults in America by the end of May.
That´s months ahead of schedule, and we are mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccines in one´s arm, calling active-duty military, FEMA, retired doctors and nurses, administrators – and to those who administer the shots. And we´ve been creating more places to get the shots. We´ve made it possible for you to get a vaccine at nearly one – any 1 of 10,000 pharmacies across the country, just like you get your flu shot.
We´re also working with governors and mayors in red states and blue states to set up and support nearly 600 federally supported vaccination centers that administer hundreds of thousands of shots per day. You can drive up to a stadium or a large parking lot, get your shot, never leave your car and drive home in less than an hour.
We’ve been sending vaccines to hundreds of community health centers all across America located in underserved areas, and we´ve been deploying and we will deploy more mobile vehicles from pop-up clinics to meet you where you live so those who are least able to get the vaccine are able to get it. We continue to work on making at-home testing available. And we´ve been focused on serving people in the hardest hit communities of this pandemic: Black, Latino, Native American and rural communities.
So what does all this add up to? When I took office 50 days ago, only 8% of Americans – after months, only 8% of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is 65%. Just 14% of Americans over the age of 75 50 days ago had gotten their first shot. Today, that number is well over 70%.
With new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, that came out on Monday, it means simply this: Millions and millions of grandparents, who went months without being able to hug their grandkids can now do so. And the more people are fully vaccinated, the CDC will continue to provide additional guidance on what you can do in the workplace, places of worship, with your friends, as well as travel.