Biden Mandates Measures to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations, Tests

President Biden: “The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

President Joe Biden laid down the law to the millions of American citizens who still refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “We’ve been patient,” Biden said in a speech last night. “But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”

Biden outlined aggressive measures—some of which his administration has already pushed for, and some new— to take on the delta variant that is currently burning through regions of the United States in which many remain unvaccinated and fueling yet another COVID-19 wave that strains the health care system. He unveiled policies that would require most federal employees to get vaccinated, and that would encourage large employers to have their workers either inoculated, or tested for COVID-19 weekly.

The policies outlined by Biden in the speech reflect his administration’s most aggressive response yet to the pandemic and, as Axios reports this morning, comes with some political risk for the president.

“The majority of U.S. sentiment may be with him,” Axios reports. “But Biden’s still taking a major political risk, and he and his team know it. He’s testing business leaders’ resolve, putting Democrats’ standing in swing states and districts on the line ahead of 2022’s midterm elections and tempting a tsunami of litigation over new requirements that could touch 100 million Americans.”

The phrase “all politics is local” is generally attributed to the late U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. Biden left no doubt last night that he’s willing to take the fight to the trenches at the local level.

“Let me be blunt,” Biden said. “My plan also takes on elected officials in states that are undermining you and these lifesaving 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.”

At least 2 Republican governors immediately pushed back.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: “I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: “The vaccine is and should be a choice.”

Biden announced a 6-pronged plan for taking on the coronavirus. Elements include:

  • Mandating that health care workers at hospitals and other health care settings that receive funding from Medicare and/or Medicaid—that’s about 17 million people—must be vaccinated. As reported in Infection Control Today®, (ICT®) that’s something the administration first pushed for in mid-August.
  • Booster shots will become available by the week of September 20. (Also, not new.)
  • While employees in the private sector can opt for regular testing rather than inoculation, that choice will not be available to most federal employees. They will have to get vaccinated.
  • Mandating that staff in school settings be vaccinated. As ICT® reported, unvaccinated and infected teachers can infect their students.
  • Proof of vaccination being required for people who want to attend large entertainment events.
  • Requiring that manufacturers such as Kroger, Amazon, and Walmart sell at-home COVID-19 tests at cost for the next 3 months.

Biden, of course, has much more sway over whether to mandate that federal employees be vaccinated then he does over what private employers should do. Last night, he outlined how he’ll encourage the private sector to follow the federal government’s lead.

“My job as president is to protect all Americans,” Biden said. “So tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees that together employ over 80 million workers to ensure their work forces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and even Fox News. The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”