In a strongly worded 27-minute address, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced new requirements to compel public and private employees to get the coronavirus vaccine and afterward took no questions – underscoring a change in tone from request to demand.
It marks the Biden administration’s most dramatic steps to date to increase vaccine requirements. The U.S. is facing another surge of the pandemic fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, averaging nearly 150,000 new coronavirus cases per day and roughly 1,500 deaths.
Biden made his message clear from the White House: The minority of Americans who won’t get the shot is keeping the country from turning the corner on the pandemic.
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals or overrun emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer,” Biden said.
Biden reiterated that COVID-19 is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” adding that it is caused “by the fact that despite America having unprecedented and successful vaccination programs, despite the fact that for almost five months, three vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”
He made an emotional appeal to the unvaccinated, but he also gave every indication that his patience is wearing thin.
“Your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said. “Please do the right thing. Don’t take it from me – listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds taking their final breath saying, ‘If only I’d gotten vaccinated.'”
The new measures include an upcoming emergency rule from the Labor Department to require private sector companies with more than 100 employees to ensure workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus or face weekly testing before going to work. They also include executive orders requiring the majority of federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and eliminating previous options for avoiding inoculation. His past policy allowed for federal workers and contractors to undergo several mitigation measures, including masking and regular testing, if they didn’t want to take the shot.
Biden’s actions indicate a growing embrace of vaccine mandates – measures he initially shied away from.
He also called out elected officials who are “actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19” without specifically naming anyone, and encouraged schools to require coronavirus shots, saying “vaccination requirements for schools are nothing new.”
In total, the new vaccination requirements are expected to cover about two-thirds of all the workers in the U.S., or about 100 million Americans, according to the White House.