In his strongest words and pandemic actions, President Joe Biden ordered sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for up to 100 million Americans, private sector employees, as well as federal healthcare workers and contractors, in total. effort to curb the rising delta variant of COVID-19 .
Will there be a vaccine mandate?
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden harshly criticized the tens of millions of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.
We have been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost us all, ”he said, almost biting his words. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of harm, and it is.”RELATED
Republican leaders, as well as some union bosses, said Biden was going too far in trying to strengthen private companies and workers, a certain sign of the legal challenges ahead.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement that “Biden and radical Democrats mocked the Constitution,” while the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Everett Kelley, insisted that “changes like this must negotiate with our bargaining units when appropriate. ”
On the other hand, there were strong words of praise for Biden’s efforts to vaccinate the nation by the American Medical Association, the National Manufacturers Association and the Business Roundtable, although his mandate for private companies was not directly mentioned. .
What Are The New Federal Vaccine Requirements
Expansive rules require all employers with more than 100 workers to require that they get vaccinated or tested for the virus on a weekly basis, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million health center workers who receive Medicare or federal Medicaid will also need to be fully vaccinated.
When is the vaccine mandate in effect?
The new mandate requires federal employees to be fully vaccinated in about 75 days so if our math is correct this means by December 25th is close to the deadline.
Biden also requires vaccination for executive branch employees and contractors doing business with the federal government, with no trial option. That covers several million more workers.
Biden announced the New Federal Vaccine Requirements in a White House speech Thursday afternoon as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest surge in coronavirus cases and the stagnant pace of COVID-19 injections.
Just two months ago, Biden prematurely declared the nation’s “independence” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans receiving at least one dose of the vaccines, the US is experiencing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day – about two and a half times more hospitalizations. and almost double the amount. deaths compared to the same time last year. Some 80 million people remain unvaccinated.
We’re on the tough streak and it could last a while, “Biden said.
After months of using promotions to boost the vaccination rate, Biden is taking a much firmer hand as he blames people who have not yet received injections for the sharp increase in cases that kill more than 1,000 people per day. and jeopardize a fragile economic recovery.
In addition to vaccination requirements, Biden went on to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or maintain facial coverage requirements on federal property in accordance with Centers for Control guidelines. and Disease Prevention.
He announced that the government will work to increase the supply of virus tests and that the White House has obtained concessions from retailers such as Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell home test kits at a cost starting this week.
The administration is also sending additional federal support to help schools operate safely, including additional funding for testing. And Biden asked that large entertainment venues and stadiums require vaccinations or proof of a negative test to enter.
The requirement for large companies to require weekly vaccinations or testing for employees will be enacted through an upcoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that carries fines of $ 14,000 per violation, an administration official said.
The rule will require large companies to provide paid time off for vaccination.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will extend a vaccination requirement issued earlier this summer, for nursing home staff, to other health care settings, including hospitals, home health agencies and facilities. dialysis.
Separately, the Department of Health and Human Services will require vaccines in Head Start Programs, as well as in schools run by the Department of Defense and the Office of Indian Education, affecting about 300,000 employees.
Will government contractors be required to be vaccinated?
Biden’s order for executive branch workers and contractors includes exceptions for workers seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination, according to press secretary Jen Psaki. Federal workers who do not comply will be referred to their agencies’ human resources departments for advice and discipline, to include possible termination.
An AP-NORC poll conducted in August found that 55% of Americans are in favor of requiring government workers to be fully vaccinated, compared to 21% against. Similar majorities also backed vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, teachers who work in K-12 schools, and workers who interact with the public, such as in restaurants and stores.
Biden has promoted COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings such as schools, workplaces, and college campuses. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to require that all students 12 and older be fully immunized in the nation’s second-largest school district.
What Big Companies Already Have Mask Requirements
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said in late July that it required all workers at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as their managers traveling within the US, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. before October 4. The company stopped short of requiring vaccinations for its front-line workers.
CVS Health said in late August that it would require certain employees who interact with patients to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. That includes nurses, care managers, and pharmacists.
In government, several federal agencies have previously announced vaccine requirements for much of their staff, particularly those in health care functions like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pentagon moved last month to require that all members of the service are vaccinated. Together, the White House estimates that those requirements cover 2.5 million Americans. Thursday’s order is expected to affect nearly 2 million more federal workers and potentially millions of contractors.
Will employers require vaccine?
Biden’s measures should help, but what is really needed is a mindset shift for many people, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
There is an aspect of this now that has to do with our country being so divided, ”Sharfstein said. “This has become so politicized that people cannot see the value of a vaccine that can save their lives. Our own divisions prevent us from ending a pandemic. ”
More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with an average of about 1,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Control. and Disease Prevention.
Most of the spread, and the vast majority of serious illness and death, occurs among people who are not yet fully vaccinated. So-called progressive infections occur in vaccinated people, but they tend to be much less dangerous.
Federal officials are moving forward with plans to begin administering booster injections of the mRNA vaccines to bolster protection against the more transmissible delta variant. Last month, Biden announced plans for them to be available beginning Sept. 20, but only the Pfizer vaccine will likely have received regulatory approval for a third dose by then.
Officials aim to give the booster shots about eight months after the second dose of the two-dose vaccines.