Biden’s Vaccine Push: What You Need to Know
President Biden announced a plan that mandates vaccines for federal employees and workers and calls on schools to adopt vaccine requirements, among other things.,
Moving aggressively to combat the spread of the Delta variant, President Biden announced a six-part plan on Thursday that would touch on nearly every aspect of society, in what amounted to the most expansive use of his presidential authority since he took office in January.
Here is what is in the plan.
Enacting new vaccination requirements
To increase the number of Americans who are vaccinated, the Labor Department will develop an emergency rule requiring all private-sector businesses with more than 100 employees to require that their workforces be fully vaccinated or test negative at least once a week. The rule would affect an estimated 80 million workers. Employers will also be required to give paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
In an expansion of his earlier push to vaccinate the federal work force, Mr. Biden signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated, with no exception to test out of the requirement.
Mr. Biden said he intended to extend a vaccination requirement that applies to health care workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid in nursing homes to all other medical facilities, including hospitals and at-home care.
“The time for waiting is over,” the president said, estimating that the strategy would affect about 100 million Americans, or two-thirds of the work force.
Easing access to booster shots
Mr. Biden pointed to booster shots as a crucial way to continue to protect vaccinated Americans from the coronavirus. Government doctors “believe that a booster is likely to provide the highest level of protection yet,” he said.
The administration has bought the booster shots necessary to give Americans a third shot, and he said the federal government was “ready to administer them as soon as they are authorized.”
It is still unclear when booster shots will be available to the public, and Mr. Biden on Thursday reiterated the administration’s pledge that it would not offer the additional shots until federal regulators backed the proposal.
Last week, top federal health officials told the White House to scale back a plan to offer coronavirus booster shots this month to the general public, saying that their agencies needed more time to collect and review all the necessary data.
Keeping schools free of the virus
Mr. Biden announced a string of measures intended to keep the coronavirus from spreading in schools and infecting children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
For parents, he urged that they ensure children ages 12 and older are vaccinated; for states, he urged mandating school staff and teachers to be inoculated.
Mr. Biden also said that nearly 300,000 educators who work in federally run school programs would be required to be vaccinated.
“About 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated,” he said. “We should get that to 100 percent.”
While no vaccine has been approved for children under the age of 12, the president said he continued to support the Food and Drug Administration as it worked to approve one “as safely and as quickly as possible.”
The president also slammed efforts by elected officials like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida who are dismantling local mask mandates, many of which apply to schools. Mr. Biden said the Education Department was moving to take legal action against those efforts and promised that the federal government would compensate any educator whose pay is withheld “for doing the right thing.”
“Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them,” he said. “Talk about bullying in schools.”
Increasing testing and masking
As part of a broader effort to bolster the affordability and availability of testing, the president said that his administration had teamed up with retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, to lower the cost of at-home Covid-19 rapid tests.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
That proposal includes dedicating nearly $2 billion to buy about 300 million rapid tests for community health centers, food banks and schools, “so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests.”
He also said that the Transportation Security Administration would double fines on travelers who refused to wear masks.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Mr. Biden said.
Aiding the economic recovery
The president said that he would expand the loan programs run by the Small Business Administration that allow small-business owners to borrow money at low interest rates in order to hire and retain workers, buy inventory or even pay down debt as the coronavirus continues to cripple business.
Even as Mr. Biden heralded that the economy was now averaging 700,000 new jobs a month, he noted that the recovery was still continuing.
“While America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office,” he said, “we’re in the tough stretch, and it could last for a while.”
Improving response and treatment to the virus
The president also outlined measures to address the increasing number of infections and hospitalizations, like bolstering support for overburdened hospitals and speeding new methods of treatment.
Mr. Biden said he would deploy “response teams” that would include experts from a number of government agencies “to stem the spread of Covid-19,” adding to health care teams that have already been deployed by the federal government.
The president also vowed to increase the availability of therapeutics that have been tested and recommended by doctors, including by increasing shipments of monoclonal antibodies.