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Fact check: Context missing from claim Biden might cancel July 4 if people don't get COVID vaccinations

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Editor's note: This article was updated May 5 to detail new CDC guidelines and how previous restrictions on gatherings were set on a state level, not federally. The rating was changed from "False" to "Missing context."

The claim: Biden might cancel Fourth of July if people refuse vaccinations

A social media post with over 1,000 reactions claims President Joe Biden might cancel Fourth of July celebrations if Americans don't get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Biden warns if Americans don't get COVID jabs they might have to cancel July 4" reads the image shared April 24 by American rapper Chingo Bling, who has more than 1 million followers on Facebook.

The image is a headline from an April 21 New York Post article, which says Biden "warned Americans they may have to cancel 'small' outdoor gatherings on the Fourth of July if there's a slowdown of COVID-19 vaccinations."

USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.

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While Biden has continued to urge Americans to get vaccinated, he hasn't talked about canceling celebrations for Independence Day

Biden's comments don't lead directly to possible decision to cancel celebrations

As of May 5, about 30% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and nearly 45% have received at least one dose, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The New York Post story reflected this comment by Biden.

"To celebrate our independence from this virus on July 4th with family and friends in small groups, we still have more to do in the months of May and June," Biden said as the U.S. hit 200 million vaccines administered April 21. "We all need to mask up until the number of cases goes down, until everyone has a chance to get their shot."

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He encouraged all Americans 16 years old and older, who are all now eligible, to get vaccinated before the end of May.

Biden also said that with the high rate of new daily vaccinations, then nearing 3 million according to the CDC, the United States remained on track to be "much closer to normal life" by the Fourth of July.

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In March, when Biden set the new goal of reaching 200 million doses in his first 100 days in office, he already talked about the possibility of celebrating July Fourth with a small group of family and friends.

"If we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day," Biden said during his first White House primetime address.

Biden announced May 4 a new goal for administered vaccinations: 70% of U.S. adults to have received at least one dose by July 4. This comes as less than 50% of adults in 1 out of 4 states have received the vaccine, which is below the level needed to decrease the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks.

Canceling wouldn't be in line with past, proceeding actions

While some social media users interpreted Biden's comments as an assertion he would cancel Fourth of July celebrations, that would be highly unusual.

During his first three months in office, Biden didn't cancel or set new restrictions on any widely-celebrated holidays. For Easter, celebrated April 4, the White House didn't celebrate the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll, but Biden didn't cancel celebrations nationwide. In fact, many Americans gathered.

Canceling Fourth of July activities would also be a reversal of federal policies that are generally moving toward more freedom, not less.

On April 28, a week after Biden's comments, the CDC released new guidelines about outdoor gatherings that reversed the need for vaccinated people to wear masks outside.

The new guidelines consider small, outdoor gatherings as the safest activities. If the current guidelines don't change before the Fourth of July, small gatherings with friends and family happening outdoors might be considered a safe activity.

We'll also note limitations on holiday celebrations are policy that has been set throughout the pandemic at the local or state level, not the federal level.

During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee set new restrictions on restaurants, stores and other businesses. People from different households could only gather inside if they had quarantined for 14 days or tested negative and quarantined for one week.

And in Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser tightened restrictions and limited outdoor gatherings to 25 people and indoor gatherings to 10.

The restrictions also came as most states were experiencing an increase in positive cases and expected more cases if people gathered during the holidays. Since January, the U.S. has been on an almost-linear decrease of new daily cases, with a slight increase between March 19 and April 8, according to CDC data.

Our rating: Missing context

We rate the claim that Biden might cancel all Fourth of July celebrations if Americans don't get a coronavirus vaccine MISSING CONTEXT, due to the lack of specific, official statements on this point. Biden hasn't explicitly said people's July Fourth celebrations will be canceled if they don't get vaccinated, but he has encouraged Americans to get the vaccine and to keep using masks until the number of coronavirus-positive cases goes down. Decisions on how to limit certain celebrations or actions have been made throughout the pandemic at the state and local level, not the federal level.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Claim Biden might cancel July 4 celebrations lacks context

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