During the first televised town hall of his presidency on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden answered questions from Americans that were primarily focused on various aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, such as vaccinations, school reopenings and how he intended to turn around the market, but he also cautiously predicted that by Christmas the nation could be nearing a return to normal.
"As my mother would say,'with the grace of God and the goodwill of these neighbors,' that by next Christmas, I believe we will be in a really different position, God willing, then we are today," Biden said on point in Milwaukee during a CNN town hall. "A year from today, I believe that there'll be significantly fewer individuals needing to be distanced, having to wear a mask, but we don't know. So I don't want to over promise anything here."
Asked by moderator Anderson Cooper when every American will have the ability to acquire a coronavirus vaccine, Biden said,"at the end of July we'll have over 600 million doses, sufficient to vaccinate every single American," which is a similar timeline to what he declared on Feb. 11 during a visit to the National Institutes of Health.
"Do you have a plan to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable sooner to give them a priority?" she asked.
Though he initially replied,"Yes, there are," Biden immediately pivoted into a blunt correlation that prioritization for population groups is around the countries , not him.
"The countries make the choices on who's in the order. I am able to make recommendations, and for national programs, I can do this, as president of the United States, but I can't tell the state'You must move such and such a group of folks up. '''
Cooper followed up to inquire whether prioritizations should cease once Johnson & Johnson vaccines become available, but Biden said it depends on if there are enough doses available for everyone.
"I think there still needs to be priority groups if there aren't enough for everyone, available to everyone."
The president tried to explain his own pledge to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office, which brought backlash last week after White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to specify exactly what Biden intended by"open," saying several educators and students would be returning for"at least one day per week."
"It was a mistake in communication," Biden said, adding that he considers"many" kindergarten to 8th-grade students are returning to five days a week of in-house instruction by the end of his first 100 days.
Biden said when pupils and teachers go back to the classroom, it'd look different and implied smaller group sizes, which might produce a demand for more instructors to accommodate.
"Rather than a classroom of 30 children inside, you have three classes of 10 kids each. I am making up the number, less, doesn't need to be 10. In addition to that, we also have indicated it is a lot better and it's much simpler to send kids K back because they are not as likely to communicate the disease to somebody else."
He also said that teachers should go up in the hierarchy for getting vaccines, but didn't state whether he thinks it ought to be a necessity before they return to their own classrooms.
His visit to Wisconsin was also used as a platform to sell Americans on his American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law currently being negotiated in Congress.
Biden has voiced hope that this bill could be but he currently has no Republican senators backing it publicly, even some Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have voiced opposition to the $15 minimum wage growth that's in the proposal.
Biden acknowledged that"it's totally legitimate for small business owners to worry" about an increase to the minimum wage Tuesday night, but said he would do it to prevent creating a significant impact on companies.
"It is about doing it slowly. We're at $7.25 an hour. Nobody needs to work 40 hours a week and reside in poverty. ... But it is not illegitimate, as a small businessperson, to be concerned about whether increasing it one fell swoop could have that effect."
A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office with this increase said Biden's proposal would pull 900,000 Americans from poverty, but cause about 1.4 million jobs to be lost, greater costs on home goods and an increase in the federal deficit.
Biden said he wouldn't mention anyone specifically, but left his feelings loud and clear: He's ready to proceed from Trump.
"For four years, all that's been in the information is Trump. The subsequent four years, I wish to make certain all the news is the American men and women.
Asked whether he would permit the Justice Department to investigate Trump, Biden repeated his campaign promises to not influence the work of an independent DOJ.
"I made a commitment, I will not ever tell my Justice Department, and it is not mine, it's the people's Justice Department, that they should and ought not to prosecute.