WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told Americans to get COVID vaccines as mass vaccination efforts still face hesitancy and some resistance.
Biden focused on COVID vaccines and touting federal pandemic relief spending during the early part of a speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28.
“Go get vaccinated, America,” Biden said during the speech drawing applause from Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The vaccination drumbeat still faces skepticism from some communities ranging from African Americans and Hispanics to immigrants and Trump supporters. In Maryland, vaccine hesitancy stretches from rural areas of the Eastern Shore to Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.
Biden also called the storming of Congress by Trump supporters on Jan. 6 a desecration and threat to democracy.
“As we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol — desecrating our democracy — remain vivid in our minds,” Biden said. “Lives were put at risk. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis — a test of whether our democracy could survive. It did."
“But the struggle is far from over. The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent," Biden said.
Four people died during the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter, was shot in killed inside the Capitol by a police officer. The officer’s identity has not been released.
Three others died from health-related events during the chaos. Capitol Hill Police officer Brian Sicknick died after the riot. An autopsy ruled he had two strokes and ruled natural causes as the cause of death.
The FBI has continued to arrest Trump supporters and QANON advocates who participated in the Jan. 6 riot. The Biden administration has also put a U.S. intelligence and anti-terrorism focus on white supremacist and alt-right groups.
Biden also outlined a laundry list of agenda items — some of which dated back to his more than decades in the U.S. Senate — during the speech.
That includes pushes for immigration reforms (including legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the country), gun control, a $15 minimum wage and cheaper drug prices. Some of those issues have been talked about for years in Washington while a push for higher minimum wage failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Biden also called for higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthiest 1%.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., praised Biden’s speech.
“President Biden’s optimism for our country was front and center, along with his desire to work with Congress to do right by the American people, especially those who have been systemically cut off from basic rights and opportunities,” Cardin said.
“It was breathtaking to hear the herculean steps that have been taken over the last 100 days to pull our nation out of the COVID-19 global health crisis. Nearly 40 percent of adults in this country have been fully vaccinated. The federal government also has injected immense resources through the American Rescue Plan at all levels of government to help those individuals, families and small businesses most harmed by the pandemic, including the economic and social damage left in its wake,” Cardin said.