President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night that the world had “reached a new moment” in the coronavirus pandemic and called on Americans to begin resuming their pre-Covid work and lifestyle routines.
“Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools we have, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said.
“We can end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need,” he added a moment later. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again. People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office.
“Americans can remove their masks, return to work, stay in the classroom and move forward safely,” he continued.
Referring to new masking guidance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week, Biden said that “most Americans in most of the country can now be mask free” — and that “more of the country will reach that point across the next couple of weeks.”
“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, Covid-19 need no longer control our lives,” he said.
At the same time, however, Biden said U.S. health and government officials would “stay on guard” — because of the coronavirus’s ability to mutate and spread — with a four-pronged public health approach.
The approach includes a continued focus on vaccines, antiviral treatments and testing — and an announcement that he would make more free rapid tests available by mail. It also includes, he said, a vigilant approach toward new variants that would see the U.S. government deploy new vaccines within 100 days.
“I cannot promise a new variant won’t come. But I can promise you we’ll do everything within our power to be ready if it does,” Biden said.
Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined dramatically in recent weeks as the surge of the virus’s omicron variant appears to have ebbed.