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WASHINGTON (AP/WJW) — One year after the nation was brought to a near-standstill by the coronavirus, President Joe Biden used his first prime-time address to outline his plan Thursday night to make all adults vaccine-eligible by May 1 and get the country “closer to normal” by the Fourth of July. He offered Americans fresh hope and appealed anew for their help.

Speaking in the White House East Room, Biden announced moves to speed vaccinations, including directing that states lift qualifications for vaccinations by May 1, and expand the number of places and categories of people who can give shots. His aim: let Americans gather at least in small groups for the Independence Day holiday.

Biden was marking one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” Biden said, calling the past year “a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”

Biden announced that he is deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and will allow more people — such as medical students, veterinarians and dentists — to deliver shots. He is also directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated closer to their homes.

As supplies of the vaccines continue to increase, Biden announced that he will direct states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1. The U.S. is expecting delivery of enough doses for those 255 million adults by the end of that month, but the process of actually administering those doses will take time.

The president also outlined a five-point plan for combating the coronavirus. Under this plan, the Administration will:

  1. Direct all states and territories to make all adults, ages 18 and older, eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.
  2. Once all adults are eligible for vaccination, officials will launch new tools to make it easier to find vaccination information, locate vaccination sites, and schedule vaccine appointments.
  3. Biden aims to safely reopen the majority of K-8 schools during his first 100 days in office. He says the initiative to vaccinate teachers and school staff, including bus drivers, makes this goal possible.
  4. In the coming weeks, the government will issue further guidance on what individuals can and cannot do once they are fully vaccinated.
  5. Biden also promises he will not relent until America beats this virus, however, he says he needs all citizens to do their part in order for that to happen.

Biden says fighting the virus is dependent on “national unity.” He urged Americans to listen to health officials and actively do their part to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

He is voicing optimism that the United States will edge toward a semblance of normalcy in the coming months, noting “there is hope and light of better days ahead if we all do our part.”

However, Biden made clear that the July 4 timetable requires cooperation from Americans to continue to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and follow federal guidelines meant to slow the spread of the virus in the near term. He also called on them roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.

The president warned that “we may have to reinstate restrictions” if Americans fail to stay vigilant about social distancing and other precautions to help stem the virus.

Biden said, “Please, we don’t want to do that again, we’ve made so much progress,” adding, “This is not the time to let up.”

Biden spoke for 24 minutes from the East Room of the White House

Biden’s address came just hours after he signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which will provide $1,400 direct payments to most Americans.

The Department of Treasury and IRS will make the first direct deposits this weekend. Payments will continue throughout the next several weeks.

The $1,400 direct payments will be sent to individual Americans making $75,000 or less and married couples with incomes up to $150,000. The size of the check would shrink for those making slightly more, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.

Besides the $1,400 direct payments to individuals, the plan includes money to help distribute coronavirus vaccines, provide relief to homeowners and renters, help reopen schools, provide aid to state and local governments, and an expansion of the child tax credit, among other features.