WASHINGTON -- As many Americans prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are cautioning that the coronavirus is still with us and are encouraging people to get vaccinated.
"We share the sentiments of Pope Francis who said that getting vaccinated is a moral obligation, one that can save your life and the lives of others," Biden said in a prerecorded video message alongside the first lady.
"By getting vaccinated and encouraging your congregations in their communities to get vaccinated, we not only can beat this virus, we can also haste the day we can celebrate the holidays together again," he said.
Biden, a Catholic who regularly attends Mass on weekends, also consoled Christians who "are still going without familiar comforts of the season."
"So many of us still feel the longing and loneliness of distance," he said. "For a second year, most will be apart from their families, their friends, full congregations that fill us with joy. And yet as the gospel of John reminds us, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."
The first lady focused on hope for the future, saying "the traditions of Holy Week take us on a journey from sorrow to salvation, reminding us that with faith, hope and love, anything is possible."
Nearly 553,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and health officials are now worried about another spike in cases across the country.
The U.S. is now averaging roughly 5,000 new COVID-19 hospital admissions every day, and hospitalizations are up in 20 states.
"We're seeing the cases that have plateaued over the last couple of weeks, and now they're starting to inch up," Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CBS This Morning on Thursday. "Please be careful."
ABC's Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.