Joe Biden announces sweeping measures to vaccinate Americans

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington.  

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced wide-ranging measures to push Americans to get vaccinated. Some 100 million people or two-thirds of the American workforce will be covered by the new executive orders and rules on vaccinations. Opposition to the rules quickly emerged, with several governors vowing to challenge the orders.

While over 170 million Americans (just over 50% of the population) have been fully vaccinated as per official data, almost 80 million are yet to have their first shot, resulting in what Mr. Biden called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Many of the countries intensive care units are overrun with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients – with over 101,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country.

“We’ve been patient,” Mr. Biden said to unvaccinated Americans on Thursday evening, as he announced the measures at the White House .

“ But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us. So please do the right thing,” he said.

Biden’s six-pronged approach to battle COVID-19

As part of his six-pronged approach to tackling the current phase of the pandemic, the U.S. President has ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require all companies employing 100 or more people to vaccinate their entire workforce or require negative tests from unvaccinated employees on a weekly basis. This is expected to impact 80 million adults.

Another 17 million individuals will be covered by a mandate requiring vaccinations for healthcare workers employed at health facilities that receive government funding (via the Medicaid and Medicare programs).

Another 2.5 million individuals will be covered by a vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors who do business with the federal government.

Pandemic politics

Mr. Biden did not mince his words on Thursday, calling out “pandemic politics”.

“… we have the tools to combat COVID-19 and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner,” he said.

The federal government would fully restore the pay of local school officials and teachers whose pay had been cut by state governors in retaliation for the officials requiring safety measures in schools, according to Mr. Biden.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken on schools that require masking, with lawyers for the governor going to court to halt mask mandates and the state threatening to withhold funding from districts that required school children to mask up.

Also read: Pandemic of distrust | On resisting COVID-19 vaccination

“Talk about bullying in schools,” Mr. Biden said.

Several governors opposed  Mr. Biden’s rules, pointing to executive overreach. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called it a “power grab” and Wyoming’s governor asked his attorney general to counter the “unconstitutional overreach of executive power,”  the Washington Post reported.

He also directed the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) to double fines for those not complying with mask mandates.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Mr. Biden said.

“And by the way, show some respect,” he said, a reference to passengers directing their anger towards flight attendants enforcing the rules.

Mr. Biden also said he would make an announcement later in September, regarding vaccinations for other countries. The U.S. has already committed to sending more than five hundred million vaccine doses to the rest of the world by June next year.

Also read: U.S. ships over 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 4:57:14 PM |

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