Biden rolls out new plan to fight ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’
The president unveiled a new wave of federal vaccine mandates, outlining his six-prong plan to push millions of private-sector employees and federal contractors toward vaccination.
by Alexandra Jones, Court House News, September 9, 2021
WASHINGTON (CN) — More than 80 million Americans working in the private sector will soon be federally mandated to either get vaccinated against Covid-19 or get tested weekly, President Joe Biden announced Thursday evening from the White House.
Addressing a nationwide upswing in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant in the midst of back-to-school season, the president presented the mandate as part of a six-prong plan to get the virus under wraps with various executive orders.
“These measures are going to take time to have full impact,” Biden said Thursday in the State Dining Room of the White House. “But if we implement them I believe, and the science indicates, that in the months ahead, we can reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans, decrease hospitalizations and deaths, allow our children to go to school safely and keep our economy strong.”
Biden noted that while nearly 175 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, those who have held out are now costing the rest.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the president maintained. “And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who failed to get the shot.”
Reeling from backlash from a controversial and hasty military exit from Afghanistan, a new poll from Washington Post-ABC News indicated last week that Biden’s approval rating had taken a dip—from 50% to 44%— since June. Approval of his handling of the pandemic has also taken a dive since June, after which Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations began rapidly increasing, with Covid-19 patients filling all hospital beds in some communities last month. According to the poll, 52% say they approve of Biden's handling of the pandemic, down from 62% in June.
“Vaccinating the unvaccinated” is listed as the number one objective in the White House’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan, which is shaped heavily around federal vaccine mandates that will make life more inconvenient for Americans without the jab.
The rule mandating vaccination for those working in the private sector will be developed by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the coming weeks, the White House said Thursday. The OSHA regulation will require all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate their workers be either vaccinated or tested weekly and provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
The rules will help clamp down on those who have held out getting shots even after the Pfizer job gained full FDA approval.
“Our hospitals are overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or pancreatitis, or cancer,” Biden said Thursday, pressing the importance of vaccination. “I want to emphasize that the vaccines provide a very strong protection from severe illness from Covid-19.”
He noted that research has found only one out of every 160,000 vaccinated Americans is hospitalized with Covid-19 per day.
Biden’s plan will also require vaccinations for all federal contractors and more than 17 million health care workers at hospitals and other health care establishments that provide Medicare and Medicaid services.
“We must increase vaccinations among the unvaccinated with new vaccination requirements,” Biden said.
Under current rules, federal workers must either have a vaccine or submit to regular testing. He also encouraged big entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry and for all states to mandate vaccination for school employees.
“Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new,” Biden said. “They work.”
Biden’s path-out plan also mandates that nearly 300,000 staff in Head Start Programs, which help low-income families get infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children ready for kindergarten, be vaccinated as well as staff at schools operated by the Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Education. In such communities, vaccination carries added importance as vaccines have yet to be approved by the FDA for children under 12 years old.
Safe school reopenings are also of priority to the government, the plan says, allocating additional funding—on top of the $130 billion provided by the American Rescue Plan—to school districts for their efforts doing so. Local school districts will be able to apply for such funds in the coming weeks through the Department of Education, to fill gaps where states have withheld funding for Covid-19 safety measures or cut school officials’ pay. Notably, some state governments, such as Republican-controlled Texas and Florida, have actively resisted imposing mask mandates or encouraging vaccinations despite high Covid-19 numbers.
Biden also announced Thursday that the White House has worked with big retailers like WalMart, Amazon and Kroger to ensure the outlets can start to sell at-home rapid test kits at a reduced cost for the next three months.
“This immediate price reduction for at-home test kits for up to 35% reduction will also expand,” Biden said, adding that his administration has also worked to provide free testing at 10,000 pharmacies around the country and committed $2 billion to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, schools.
The White House is also working to increase the pace of shipments for monoclonal antibody treatments, the president said, which have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe Covid-19.
What’s more, Biden said the government will expand the Covid-19 economic injury disaster loan program that allows small businesses to borrow up to $2 million to keep going if the pandemic has impacted their sales.
Further protecting the already vaccinated with booster shots is high on the Biden administration’s plan too — although the White House said Thursday that implementation of this plan depends on the FDA’s authorization of booster shots. As soon as authorizations are given, the administration will be prepared to offer booster shots beginning later this month, according to the White House.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans, but particularly those who are elderly or otherwise at risk of serious infection from Covid-19, obtain booster shots to better withstand an ongoing surge of the virus's more infectious delta variant.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said of the new regulations Thursday. “It's about protecting yourself and those around you. The people you work with. The people you care about. The people you love.”
FNN: Biden will now require vaccines for all federal employees via new executive order
AP: Biden announces sweeping new COVID-19 vaccine mandates that will cover 100 million Americans
PBN: Feds: Large employers must mandate vaccine or weekly Covid-19 testing. Here's what it means for businesses.
KHON: Several Hawaii businesses on board with President Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement