President Biden did not name former President Donald Trump, but there was no mistaking the target of several verbal swipes as he used part of a prime-time address to pin blame on the 45th president a year after the coronavirus pandemic upended public life.
“A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months. That led to more deaths,” Biden said Thursday from the White House’s ornate East Room.
During his 20-minute remarks, delivered straight to camera via a teleprompter, Biden reiterated the importance of telling the public the truth about COVID-19 and measures, such as mask-wearing, to stop it from jumping person to person. That was another dig at Trump, who openly downplayed the virus to prevent a sense of panic.
Biden also condemned the uptick in reports of discrimination or harassment toward Asian Americans, which many people have linked to rhetoric surrounding the pandemic. Santa Cruz Warriors basketball player Jeremy Lin, for example, shared how he had been called “coronavirus” on the court.
Members of the Asian American community have been “forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets,” Biden said Thursday.
“It’s wrong. It’s un-American, and it must stop,” he said.
Biden’s speech offered glimmers of hope, too, after he signed his $1.9 trillion spending package into law. He announced he would direct states and territories to make all adults eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. He added his administration was on track to provide 100 million shots by his 60th day in office at a rate of 2 million jabs a day. That’s ahead of his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days.
“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” he said. “Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it might be the most American thing we do.”