US president Joe Biden will make his first address to Congress on Wednesday night as he seeks to set out the key achievements of his first 100 days in office.
Though the first address to Congress by a new president is technically not a State of the Union address, it resembles the annual address by a sitting president to the joint houses of Congress.
However, this year attendance at the event will be limited due to the pandemic. Only some members of the supreme court and Mr Biden’s cabinet will attend in person, while restrictions are also in place for sitting members of Congress.
No official "designated survivor" would be required, the White House said, because not all cabinet members would be at the event.
Mr Biden will deliver the speech a day before his presidency reaches the 100-day mark, a key milestone.
Presidents typically use the televised address to set out their legislative priorities and outline the challenges facing the nation. Among the announcements expected from Mr Biden are plans for the second part of his infrastructure plan which will include spending on childcare, paid work leave and financial aid for those in community colleges.
He is also expected to address foreign policy issues, following his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in September.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that the president would also use the speech to talk about many other priorities, including police reform, immigration, gun-safety and efforts to get the pandemic under control.
Saving your life
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday where he delivered an update on America’s Covid strategy, Mr Biden urged those who have not been vaccinated to get a vaccine. It comes as America’s supply of vaccines may be exceeding demand.
“If you’re vaccinated you can do more things, more safely, both indoors as well as outdoors,” he said. “This is another great reason to go get vaccinated now. Yes, the vaccines are about saving your life, but also the lives of the people around you.”
He was speaking following the announcement by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear facemasks outdoors except in crowded places.
The CDC said there was a growing body of evidence showing that vaccinated people were unlikely to transmit the virus to others. However, the US health agency said it was still unclear how long vaccine protection lasted, and how much vaccines protected against emerging variants.
The agency also stated that fully vaccinated people could also meet with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing.
More than 230,000 vaccine doses have now been administered in the US, with 80 per cent of seniors receiving at least one dose. Three vaccines have been approved for use in the US – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. However, AstraZeneca has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prompting calls for America to share its unused vaccines with countries that have approved the treatment.
Following confirmation by the White House on Monday that the US will export up to 60 million vaccine doses in the coming months, Mr Biden said on Tuesday that it is his intention to send vaccines directly to India.
He said he had spoken at length to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and had already pledged therapeutic drugs like remdesivir and components for vaccine manufacturing.
“When we were in a bind in the very beginning, India helped us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting dead of Andrew Brown in North Carolina last week. Mr Brown's family said that the 42 year-old was shot in the back of the head while he had his hands on his steering wheel. He was shot by police who were arresting him.