Biden and Harris make first maskless appearance: ‘Better days are ahead’

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Hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people can gather outdoors and indoors without wearing masks, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made their first maskless public appearance.

“I’ve said many times: As tough as this pandemic has been, we will get through it,” Biden said, sans mask and with the vice president by his side. “We will rebuild our economy, reclaim our lives and get back to normal. We’ll laugh again. We’ll know joy again. We’ll smile again — and now, see one another’s smile.”

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program Thursday as Vice President Kamala Harris listens in. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Better days are ahead,” he added. “I promise you.”

Yesterday’s announcement marks the end of mandatory mask-wearing in most states since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last March. Since then, more than 580,000 Americans have died from the virus.

President Biden started his presidency with the goal of directing the administering of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to 100 million Americans in his first 100 days. He met it in mid-March with 40 days to spare, and those numbers were exceeded as needed; to date, more than 107 million people have been fully vaccinated. That accounts for more than 30% of the population.

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As previously reported, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks inside most places. The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, called the announcement a moment we have “all longed for.”

The administration is currently focused on getting more Americans vaccinated, including children under 12, who may be eligible to be vaccinated in the coming months.

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“The choice is yours,” Biden told the country. “You all made this possible. Now, let’s finish the work of beating this virus and getting everything back to normal.”

The president also noted that many Americans may not be ready to change after a year of mask-wearing as a polarized issue. “Please treat them with kindness and respect,” he said. “We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much polarization on this issue about wearing a mask. Let’s put it to rest.”

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