U.S. celebrates as nation emerges from pandemic

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Residents line up with chairs on the side of the road as they watch an Independence Day parade on July 4, 2021 in Brighton, Michigan.

Emily Elconin | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Americans celebrate July 4th after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of most events last year, raising hope that life is on the path to some semblance of normality as cases and deaths from Covid-19 are close to record lows.

The White House has encouraged people to come together and watch fireworks to mark the country’s “independence” from the virus. Shops and restaurants will reopen across the country as restrictions are eased and air traffic briefly topped 2019 levels at the start of the holiday weekend.

President Joe Biden is hosting an Independence Day party with 1,000 key workers and military families on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday marking the President’s first major event. He commented on the progress the US has made against the virus.

“This year, July 4th is a special holiday as we come out of the darkness of a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss,” said Biden during his remarks on White’s South Lawn House.

“Just think back to where this nation was a year ago, think back to where you were a year ago, and think about how far we’ve come,” Biden said. “From quiet streets to crowded parade routes lined with people waving American flags.”

“From empty stadiums and arenas to fans back to their seats cheering together again. From families pressing hands against a window to grandparents hugging their grandchildren again. We’ll travel again, we’ll see each other again,” Biden said.

Although the country has made significant strides in fighting the pandemic due to the introduction of vaccination, the weekend of July 4th also comes as U.S. health officials monitor the spread of the Covid Delta variant believed to be earlier in the pandemic is more transmissible than other strains.

Coronavirus cases are much lower than the January peak when the country recorded more than 300,000 new cases in a single day, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Still, cases have been looking up in recent days and some health officials are warning that the US should not yet declare a victory over the pandemic because of the Delta variant, which now accounts for around a quarter of infections in mostly unvaccinated people.

According to CNBC’s analysis of the JHU data, the seven-day average of new daily Covid cases in the US is 13,196, an 11% increase from last week.

The number of deaths in the US has been slowing for months. The seven-day average of new Covid deaths is 225, 23% less than a week earlier, according to CNBC analysis.

More than 600,000 people have died in the United States in the wake of the pandemic.

White House Covid Tsar Jeff Zients on Sunday defended the Biden government’s upcoming July 4th party, saying the US had “a lot to celebrate,” citing two out of three American adults get at least a dose of the Vaccine.

“We are much further in this fight against the pandemic than I think anyone expected,” said Zients in an interview with ABC’s “This Week”.

In fact, the government narrowly missed its goal of fully vaccinating 160 million Americans and having 70% of adults with at least one vaccination by July 4th. But nearly 156 million Americans are now fully vaccinated and more than 182 million have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday that most people should be comfortable congregating on Independence Day weekend, citing high vaccination rates and low virus infection rates in much of the country.

“There is a very low prevalence across the country. You have to depend on where you are, ”said Gottlieb in“ Squawk Box ”. “In some parts of the country where the prevalence is increasing … I think people should be more careful.”

Around 1,000 counties in the United States, mostly located in the Southeast and Midwest, have a vaccination coverage rate of less than 30%, according to the CDC. And in some countries the delta variant rates are up to 50%.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that people in areas with low vaccination rates like Mississippi should “go the extra mile” and wear a mask even if they are vaccinated.

“If you find yourself in an environment where you have high virus dynamics and a very low vaccine, you may want to take the extra step … even though the vaccines themselves are highly potent,” Fauci said during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press .

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration in December, followed by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in February.

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