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Biden to praise progress against COVID-19 pandemic ahead of major holiday weekend

(WASHINGTON) — Appearing in Virginia ahead of Memorial Day weekend, President Joe Biden is expected to tout the state’s and the country’s “strong progress” against the coronavirus pandemic, while encouraging more Americans to get vaccinated, according to a White House official.

Nearly 130 days after he urged Americans in his inaugural speech to persevere through the “dark winter” with the coronavirus, Biden is also expected to take an optimistic and hopeful tone in a speech in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday, the official said.

Millions of Americans are expected to travel over Memorial Day weekend — the first major holiday since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended its mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans.

Biden’s remarks ahead of his visit to an Air Force base in Hampton, Virginia, come as 44% of Virginians are fully vaccinated and 54% have received at least one dose. Nationwide, about 40% of Americans are fully vaccinated and roughly half have received at least one vaccine dose.

With new COVID-19 cases at their lowest in months — and the lowest positivity rate in roughly a year — Virginia relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions at midnight on Friday.

Virginia reported 357 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, compared to more than 4,500 on the day of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. On that day, 3,098 Virginians were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 63 died. On Thursday, the state reported nine new deaths and roughly 500 hospitalizations.

In northern Virginia on Friday, Biden will also focus on the state’s partnership with the federal government on vaccinations. Virginia has received $247 million in federal funding for vaccination sites and has made the vaccine available at roughly 1,000 pharmacies statewide.

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