Biden requires vaccinations for two-thirds of American workers

— Photo from New York State

On Thursday, President Joe Biden mandated vaccination for two-thirds of American workers.

President Joe Biden outlined a six-part plan on Thursday night to deal with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

“We have the tools to combat the virus, if we can come together as a country and use those tools,” he said. “If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking, expanding testing and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.”

Biden noted the frustration many Americans have with the nearly 80 million who are not vaccinated. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said.

The “tough stretch” could last a while, he said, admonishing “elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against Covid-19.”

Biden said, “Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they are ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in our communities.” The 25 percent of Americans who remain unvaccinated, he said, “overcrowd our hospitals or overrun the emergency rooms and intensive-care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer.”

Biden outlined six broad actions, with details at Whitehouse.gov:

— First, he named new vaccination requirements, saying the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more workers — which together employ over 80 million workers — to ensure their work forces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. Workers will be given paid time off to get vaccinated.

Already, all nursing-home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid must be vaccinated and Biden expanded that to those who work in hospitals, home health-care facilities or other medical facilities — a total of 17 million health care workers.

He also signed executive orders requiring all executive branch federal employees and all federal contractors to be vaccinated.

“Today, in total, the vaccine requirements in my plan will affect about 100 million Americans — two-thirds of all workers,”said Biden. “And for other sectors, I issue this appeal: 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 also asked physicians to reach out to their unvaccinated patients and make a personal appeal for them to get the shot.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” he said of the unvaccinated;

— Second, Biden said, “is continuing to protect the vaccinated” with booster shots.

“The vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated. I understand the anxiety about getting a breakthrough case,” he said.

Last month, he said, top government doctors announced an initial plan for booster shots to provide protection.

“Of course, the decision of which booster shots to give or when to start them and who will give them will be left completely to the scientists at the F.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control,” he said;

— Third, Biden said, is keeping children safe and schools open.

Since children under 12 cannot be vaccinated, Biden said, “Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated. Children have a four times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in a state with low vaccination rates rather than states with high vaccination rates.”

He also said that, if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems, social distancing, and vaccinations, then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.

“Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated,” Biden said. “We should get that to 100 percent.”

Biden announced that all of nearly 300,000 educators in the federal paid program, Head Start, must be vaccinated. And he called on all governors to require vaccinations for all teachers and staff, noting that some already have done so.

“We need more to step up,” said Biden. “Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new. They work .… My plan also takes on elected officials in states that are undermining you and these life-saving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools.

“If they will not help, if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way. The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered. Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government, 100 percent. I promise you, I will have your back,” he said;

— Fourth, Biden said, is increasing testing and masking.

“From the start, America has failed to do enough COVID-19 testing,” he said. “In order to better detect and control the Delta variant, I’m taking steps tonight to make testing more available, more affordable and more convenient.”

Biden is using the Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950 in response to the start of the Korean War, to increase production of rapid tests, including those used at home. While that production is ramping up, retailers like Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will start to sell at-home rapid test kits at cost for the next three months, he said.

Free testing at 10,000 pharmacies will be expanded, Biden said, and $2 billion will be used to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, and schools, “so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests,” he said.

Also, the Transportation Safety Administration will double the fines on travelers who refuse to mask. “If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” said Biden;

— Fifth is protecting our economic recovery, Biden said.

“Because of our vaccination program, and the American Rescue Plan, which we passed early in my administration, we’ve had record job creation for a new administration — economic growth unmatched in 40 years,” Biden said, adding he doesn’t want to go backwards.

The COVID-19 economic injury disaster loan programs will be expanded.

“That’s a program that’s going to allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million, from the current $500,000, to keep going if COVID-19 impacts on their sales,” he said. “These low-interest, long-term loans require no repayment for two years and can be used to hire and retain workers, purchase inventory or even pay down higher-cost debt racked up since the pandemic began. I’ll also be taking additional steps to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic,” he said; and

— “Sixth, we’re going to continue to improve the care of those who do get COVID-19,” said Biden, noting that, starting in July, surge response teams were deployed to areas in greatest need.

“Additionally, he said, “we’re increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists. The monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease.”

Already, 1.4 million courses of these treatments have been distributed to hospitals, Biden said, and the average pace of shipment across the country of free monoclonal antibody treatments will be increased by another 50 percent.

An immediate local Republican response to Biden’s plan was issued Thursday night in a statement from Liz Joy, who is running against Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko to represent District 20.

She called the vaccine mandate “a blatant authoritarian power grab” and took exception to legal action against governors who are withholding pay of school officials who require masking.

“I would also like to remind Joe Biden that we have a Constitution and a federalist system of government in which the federal government derives its power from the states,” Joy said. “His comments that he will ‘get governors out of the way’ were un-American and inappropriate. Thank god we have a system of government that decentralizes power and enables checks and balances to keep authoritarians like Joe Biden in check; otherwise the United States of America would already be unrecognizable.”

More Regional News

  • “This is an opportunity in this post-pandemic world to let people know, get the skills, go into apprenticeship programs, get trained,” said Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking from the county’s airport on Monday enroute to the White House for the signing of the infrastructure bill. “There’s jobs waiting for you to help rebuild this great state after we were knocked down so far.”

  • Figures from a year ago — Oct. 24 to Nov. 24 — before the first vaccine was authorized, show better numbers in Albany County than the same time period this year. There are 1,000 more infections and two times the number of deaths, year over year.

  • Albany County suffered three COVID deaths this week: a man in his seventies died on Thursday, a man in his sixties died on Friday, and a woman in her nineties died on Saturday. Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 439.

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