The White House Is Marking COVID 'Independence Day' With Free Beer And Bill Pullman
America hasn't quite reached President Biden's July Fourth vaccination goal, but the White House isn't letting that get in the way of a good party.
Starting Saturday, Biden and other administration officials will fan out around the country to celebrate that hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are way down and life is getting back to normal.
And even though not quite 70% of American adults are expected to have received their first shot by the Independence Day milestone, Budweiser is officially unlocking its free beer giveaway, one of many incentives dangled to try to lure people to roll up their sleeves ahead of July Fourth.
That news was announced by actor Bill Pullman, who reprised the epic presidential speech of the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, a movie about an alien invasion.
"We're fighting for freedom for all, not from alien invaders, from separation, from being cooped up while baking bread and ignoring basic hygiene," Pullman says, wearing a bomber jacket and standing at a lectern in an aircraft hangar with music swelling behind him, just like in the movie.
An NPR analysis projects that just under 67% of adults will have gotten their first shot by July Fourth, despite a monthlong campaign-style push by the White House.
Volunteers made phone calls, knocked on doors and sent millions of text messages. There was a big pink and blue bus on a "We Can Do This" tour.
The bus did a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Labor Secretary Marty Walsh pitched vaccination with 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan, and served as a backdrop in Dayton, where HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge danced along to a pro-vaccine jam from R&B singer Shirley Murdock.
First lady Jill Biden is making one final push this week in Texas and Arizona. Last week, she was in Nashville, where country star Brad Paisley sang "Vaccine, vaccine" to the tune of "Jolene," an homage to Dolly Parton, who helped fund research that led to the development of the Moderna vaccine.
"Only 3 in 10 Tennesseans are vaccinated," Jill Biden said as the crowd interrupted her with boos. "Well, you're booing yourselves. So, that's why I wanted to visit today."
Although it isn't a purely political issue, vaccination rates are higher in places that voted for President Biden and lower in places that did not. It's part of the reason Biden administration officials have been working with people and organizations who are more popular in red states than a Democratic president.
"At some point it becomes an issue of personal responsibility," said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, who has worked to develop messaging to break through the divide. He says the White House did the right things but there is only so much they can do.
"This is what America's all about. It's about people making choices for themselves and their families and their communities. And frankly, sometimes they make the wrong choice, but that's what freedom is," Luntz told NPR.
Some states and rural counties continue to have very low vaccination rates, a concern for Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, founding director of the Boston University Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research.
"I think the thing that concerns me about where we have fallen short is the absolute difference, the disparities in the vaccination levels, because in the next phase of the pandemic, outbreaks are going to be hyperlocal," Bhadelia said.
The White House plans to keep working to get as many Americans as possible fully vaccinated. But from here on, the campaign gets more difficult, since those who were eager to get vaccinated have done so already.
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