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STORY BY KEVIN LIPTAK AND JEFF ZELENY, CNN

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Published on March 12, 2021 11:02 PM

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Biden directs states to open vaccinations to all adults by May 1
(CNN)Addressing a pandemic-worn nation a year after coronavirus brought life to a halt, President Joe Biden on Thursday offered a plan to lift the country from crisis using a pair of upcoming dates: May 1, by which he will order states to allow all adults to receive vaccines; and July 4, when he said Americans can again celebrate Independence Day in person.

The deadlines offered distinct time frames for frazzled citizens looking for a sign that the worst year in recent memory is receding; they also carry inherent risk if they are not met. In a speech -- his first in prime time -- that actively sought to rebut the denials and divisions cultivated by his predecessor, Biden said the efforts he's undertaken after 50 days in office could allow for a semblance of normality within months. "After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus," he said. He cast the effort to beat back the virus as a collective and patriotic initiative, even as he lamented the untold losses suffered by Americans over the past year. "Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do," he said. For Biden, it was a moment to summon a deep well of empathy as he spoke to a nation ready to move beyond its collective grief and exhaustion. His words were similar to the ones he had delivered for much of the last year as a candidate, but the message carried a far heavier weight as he addressed Americans from the Cross Hall of the White House.

He did not mention his predecessor by name -- the burden, by this early stage of his presidency, is his and his alone -- but he made clear he was turning a page from the Donald Trump era. "We know what we need to do to beat this virus," Biden said. "Tell the truth."

Biden spoke out forcefully against a recent rise in hate crimes targeted at Asian Americans, a sharp break from former President Donald Trump who as recently as Wednesday referred to the "China virus" when taking credit for vaccine development. "At this very moment, so many of our fellow Americans are on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives. And still -- still -- they are forced to live in fear for their lives, just walking down streets in America. It's wrong. It's un-American. And it must stop," he said. The President delivered a careful balance of optimism along with a strong dose of reality, as he told Americans: "This fight is far from over." He also issued a clarion call for "national unity," imploring Americans to set aside the partisan fights over masks and restrictions. "I will not relent until I meet this virus, but the American people: I need you," Biden said. "I need every American to do their part."