On September 9, President Joe Biden announced more than 80 million Americans will need to be vaccinated as part of a new effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, reports Rachel Siegel and Eli Rosenberg of the Washington Post. The mandate applies to federal employees and about two-thirds of private workers, who will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or be tested weekly by employers.
Prevalence of the Delta variant has driven a resurgance of the illness in the United States, where more than 40 million cases have been reported and 655,000 people have died since February 2020, the Washington Post reports.
“We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” Biden said in a nationally televised speech.
Under the new mandate, about 90 percent of 4 million federal workers will have to get the vaccine. In addition, private companies with more than 100 employees—about 80 million people—must ensure their workforce is vaccinated or conduct weekly testing, report USA Today's Joey Garrison, Courtney Subramanian, Rick Rouan and Mabinty Quarshie.
“We’ve been patient,” Biden said, addressing those not yet vaccinated, reports Zeke Miller of the Associated Press (AP). “But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 62 percent of all eligible Americans—or 200 million people—have been vaccinated. Currently, 150,000 new Covid-19 cases are reported daily in the United States, report Emily Anthes and Daniel E. Slotnik for the New York Times. An August CDC report found unvaccinated Americans are 29 times more likely than vaccinated individuals to be hospitalized for Covid-19 infections, reports Marisa Fernandez for Axios.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says daily infections should be ten times lower than the current rate, reports Eileen Drage O'Reilly for Axios.
"That’s not even modestly good control … which means it’s a public health threat,” Fauci says, later adding, "In a country of our size, you can't be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You've got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable."
In the televised speech, the president outlined a six-part plan to fight the ongoing pandemic. The “Path out of the Pandemic” features new initiatives to boost vaccinations and access to testing in order to protect the economy and keep schools open while improving care for Covid-19 patients, reports Politico's Adam Cancryn and David Lim.
“This is not about freedom and personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you,” said Biden. “The bottom line, we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers.”
Several major corporations—including McDonald’s, Delta Airlines and Tyson Foods—already require employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly. While several groups are opposing the mandate, the Business Roundtable, which represents Chevron, Caterpillar and Citigroup, announced its support for the new policies.
Per the Washington Post, Business Roundtable's president Joshua Bolten says he “welcomes the Biden administration’s continued vigilance in the fight against Covid.” He later adds, “America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are.”
The president also called on large-scale entertainment venues to increase entry regulations. “To those of you running large entertainment venues — from sports arenas, to concert venues, to movie theaters — please require folks to get vaccinated or show a negative test as a condition of entry,” Biden said.
In the address, Biden also announced he would be extending a previous mandate affecting only healthcare workers treating with Medicare and Medicaid patients. Under the new regulations, more than 17 million medical personnel working in hospitals, home health facilities and other medical organizations will be inoculated, reports Claire Maldarelli for Popular Science.
The new policies are expected to take effect in the next few weeks, although court challenges are likely. The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for carrying out the mandate. OSHA is currently drafting an emergency temporary standard for employers to follow.
Last month, the Biden administration recommended booster shots eight months after the second dose for all eligible Americans. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received official approval from the Food and Drug Administration on August 23.