ALEXANDRIA, VA – President Joe Biden began Memorial Day weekend by visiting a rock climbing gym in northern Virginia as the state lifted all COVID-19 distance and capacity restrictions on private companies and much of the nation pushes toward a greater sense of normalcy.
Biden tried to make a stop Friday at the Sportrock Climbing Centers (an 18,000-square-foot space of climbing and bouldering walls, a gym and yoga studios) to celebrate the progress made as the country wants to turn the corner against the pandemic of coronavirus that has killed more than 593,000 Americans and 3.5 million people worldwide.
The president also took the opportunity to thank Americans who have already received the vaccine (approximately 51% of Americans are completely vaccinated) and again urged Americans not to receive the shot. .
“Across the country we have gone from the pain and stagnation of a long dark winter to a moving economy,” Biden said. He added, “Americans of all parties, races, creeds have come together and rolled up, literally, and done their part.”
Tune in as you comment with Governor Northam on Virginia’s progress in the fight against COVID-19. https://t.co/4E9HseCWPr
– President Biden (@POTUS) May 28, 2021
This year, the long holiday weekend that marks the start of the unofficial summer comes at a time when the federal and state governments are relaxing the rules of masking and social distancing now that most Americans they are vaccinated and there are more Americans who want to go back to their pandemic routines.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday lifted coronavirus-related restrictions on capacity and social distancing in the state. By May 15, it had already lifted Virginia’s indoor mask mandate for people completely vaccinated for most indoor sites, though companies can still require masks if they want to.
On Friday, Virginia’s positivity rate (the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus in the past seven days) stood at 2.6%. Approximately 54% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of vaccination and nearly 44% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Northam, who is a pediatric occupational neurologist, said there is “finally a very bright light at the end of this long tunnel” because of Biden following the scientists’ advice on his approach to the pandemic.
“As a doctor, I know it also makes a big difference when leadership respects science and follows its direction,” Northam said.
Biden appeared delighted by the Sportrock climbers, who looked puzzled as the president watched them climb. A reporter asked him if he would like to try it, Biden replied that he would like it, but suggested that he start with one of the easiest walls.
“I won’t try the corner wall, I’ll try that wall,” Biden said with a smile, pointing to a flatter climbing wall.
The visit came as Biden pressured Republican lawmakers to support a massive infrastructure bill to rebuild roads and bridges, replace millions of lead pipes and more, which the White House is preparing to save an economy while the United States turns the worst public health crisis corner in more than a century.
He tried to contrast the progress that was made in vaccinating Americans with resistance to the group of people facing Congress.
“I think the American people are more prepared to come together than Congress and the elect,” Biden said.
Biden was scheduled to travel later Friday to Langley-Eustis Joint Base in Hampton, Virginia, to thank the U.S. troops for service before heading home to Wilmington, Del. most of the holiday weekend.