President Joe Biden said Thursday all federal employees and contractors are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – an option of regular testing as an acceptable option has been eliminated — and he’s urging leaders in state and local governments and school districts to do the same.
Biden has been encouraging Americans – along with businesses and schools – to get vaccinated virtually since he took office. Now, for many sectors, he’s not providing a choice.
“We have the tools to combat this virus … if we can come together and use those tools,” Biden said Thursday. “Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free.
“We have made considerable progress in battling COVID-19,” he added. “We can and we will turn the tide of COVID-19. It’ll take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time.”
Among the decisions Biden announced Thursday: Ordering the Department of Labor to direct private businesses with 100 employees or more to require either a COVID-19 vaccination or a weekly negative test before coming to work.
The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is issuing an emergency temporary standard to implement the new requirement. The directive is expected to affect more than 80 million workers in the private sector nationwide.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two-thirds of private-sector workers are going to fall under the new rule, the Society for Human Resource Management reported.
Biden pointed out some of the nation’s largest companies — firms such as United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods, Fox News, CVS and Chevron — are already requiring it. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has said employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccines as long as they follow requirements to find alternative arrangements for employees unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or because they have religious objections.
While announcing the new requirement on large businesses, Biden also announced the DOL will require companies with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get the vaccination.
“The bottom line – we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” Biden said. “We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”
Biden had already announced a vaccination requirement for nursing home staffers reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid. Now he’s expanding it to those who work in hospitals, home health care facilities or other medical facilities.
The new requirement affects some 17 million health care workers. As of July, 27 percent of the country’s more than 20 million healthcare workers were unvaccinated, according to a study by the Covid States Project, NBC News reported.
“If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated … simple, straightforward, period,” Biden said.
Biden announced his new six-prong attack plan, designed to combat the surging Delta variant of the virus, in a televised address Thursday afternoon. Biden addressed the nation knowing the country has already recorded more than 40 million cases of COVID-19. Some 650,000 Americans have died from it, according to statistics from John’s Hopkins University.
With the Delta variant surging across the country, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have spiked recently. The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths in the current surge are among the unvaccinated. About a quarter of U.S. adults have not gotten a vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NPR reported.
Biden also encouraged employers and local governments to put vaccine mandates in place along with mask requirements and discuss efforts to get boosters to those who are vaccinated, an effort the administration plans to start Sept. 20.
The president also called on schools to set up regular testing. The federal government set aside $10 billion in funding for covid screening tests for teachers, staff and students.
“My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” Biden said. “We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient, the vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” he added. “Your refusal has cost all of us. So please, do the right thing.”