White House defends July 4 gatherings amid variant fears


The White House said Monday it sees little risk in holding a July Fourth celebration amid concerns about the fast-moving COVID-19 delta variant that is enveloping countries across the world, saying vaccines are sufficiently protective and the arc of the pandemic is improving in the U.S.

“We, of course, will continue to evaluate any steps that need to be taken to protect the public, protect the American people. But we continue to make significant progress and we are confident in our plans moving forward for July 4,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

President Biden plans to host a barbecue for essential workers and military members on the White House South Lawn on Sunday and deliver remarks about Independence Day.

People also will congregate on the National Mall for the traditional July Fourth fireworks display.

Former President Donald Trump was heavily criticized for holding a similar White House celebration last year during the pandemic, but there was no vaccine at the time.

For months, Mr. Biden has pinpointed the holiday as the entry point to normalcy as the vaccines beat back transmission of the coronavirus.   

Outdoor activities pose a far lower risk of transmission than indoor events, and nearly half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, though mass gatherings are getting a second look amid the spread of dangerous variants such as the delta version.

Parts of Missouri saw outbreaks from the delta variant, though much of the problem has been centered on areas with poor vaccination rates.

Slightly more than half of the D.C. population is fully vaccinated, and the U.S. case count is down to an average of 11,000 per day.

“Our north star has been data,” Ms. Psaki said. “I don’t anticipate, at this time, our plans changing.”

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