President Joe Biden predicted that by the end of the year life in the United States would start to resemble conditions prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, largely based on his pledge to make vaccines available for the entire population by July.
"With the grace of God and the goodwill of neighbours, then by next Christmas we'll be in a very different circumstance – God willing – than where we are today," Mr Biden said in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“A year from now, there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask, but we don’t know. So, I don’t want to overpromise anything here.”
In the meantime, Mr Biden stressed the importance of precautionary measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing to avoid spreading the virus.
"It matters whether you continue to wear that mask," Mr Biden said. "It matters that you continue to socially distance. It matters whether you continue to wash your hands with hot water. Those things matter. They matter. And they can save a lot of lives while we get to this point of herd immunity."
The president’s estimate was based on his vaccine distribution plan. He confidently repeated his assertion that his administration would ensure that 600 million Covid-19 shots – enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans – would be available by the end of July.
"[When] we came into office, there were only 50 million doses that were available," Mr Biden said. "Now by the end of July, we'll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American."
The president also said that teachers should move up higher in the prioritisation line to receive the vaccine, although this is largely at the discretion of individual states.
He predicted that most US schools would reopen by the end of his first 100 days in office, and he floated the idea to eliminate the traditional summer break this year to allow for more in-person instruction.
“We’ve had a significant percentage of them be able to open,” Mr Biden said. “My guess is they’re going to be pushing to be open all summer to continue like it’s a different semester.”
He said that elementary and middle schools would be easier to open than high schools because older teenagers are much more likely to spread the virus than younger children.
Mr Biden laid out some mitigating steps to prevent the spread of the virus in schools as they reopen, including mandatory protective gear for pupils, teachers and employees. He also said that classrooms would be organised into “smaller pods”, which would require schools to hire more teachers.