March 11, 2021, marks one year since the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering a global lockdown. While normal life feels like a lifetime ago, hope is on the horizon that a return to life as we knew it could soon be within reach.
The U.S. has purchased 100 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccine, which could help President Biden deliver on his promise to have enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May. States who have been rationing their vaccine supplies for months have been told to prepare for a supply surge in April.
"On January 20th, there was a seven-day average of 890,000 shots per day," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this week. "Today, we're averaging 2.17 million shots per day."
Alaska is the first state to offer vaccines to anyone over the age of 16. It's news Alaskans are joyfully celebrating.
"We figured we'd have to wait until at least May before we were eligible for a vaccine so hearing that, that suddenly changed is very exciting," said Alaska resident Kelsey Frazier.
On Wednesday, Texas joined a growing number of states lifting mask mandates and they're also reopening businesses to 100% capacity.
"I think it's quite a bit early, I think there's a lot of people still catching the virus, a lot of deaths coming from the virus," said one Texas gym member.
Businesses are now in control of mask policies and some cities in Texas are leaving mandates in place. One 24-hour gym in Katy, Texas, is incorporating mask-free and mask-required areas to put all the gym members at ease depending on their mask preference.
On Thursday, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan to send a new round of relief to the American people. Psaki said some Americans will start to see relief money in their bank accounts as early as this weekend.
"I believe this historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, people who built the country a fighting chance. That's what the essence of it is," Biden said as he signed the bill into law.
According to Psaki, eligible American taxpayers who have a direct deposit set up with the Internal Revenue Service will receive their benefit checks first. All other eligible taxpayers will receive checks in the mail or pre-paid debit cards in the coming weeks.
The nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan passed with no GOP support in the House or Senate, leading to a rare rebuke from the new House chaplain during her opening prayer on Wednesday.
"Forgive them, all of them. For when called upon to respond to a once-in-a-century pandemic that has rocked our country, upended its economy, and widened the chasm of partisan opinion, they have missed the opportunity to step above the fray and unite to attend to this national crisis," prayed House Chaplain Margaret Kibben.
Tonight, President Biden will give his first major address to the nation now 50 days into his time in office. He plans to talk about what he expects the American people to do as we head into the next phase of COVID-19 response and the country starts easing back into normal life.