WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his most forceful actions against the coronavirus pandemic, setting sweeping new federal vaccine requirements that will affect millions of workers.
Speaking at the White House, Biden announced federal vaccine requirements and slammed those 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of vaccine availability.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice, it’s about protecting the people around you,” Biden said. “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”
The President signed two executive orders that will make all employers with more than 100 workers require vaccinations for their employees or test them for the virus weekly. Additionally, workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden’s other executive order requiring contractors who do business with the federal government to be vaccinated with no option to test out. To make testing more accessible, Biden announced that Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will start selling at-home rapid tests with no cost for the next three months.
After college football stadiums were packed with fans over the Labor Day weekend, the President encouraged sports arenas to require proof of vaccination in order to enter. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration will double fines on travelers who refuse to wear a mask on airlines.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said. “And by the way, show some respect.”
Biden called on governors to require vaccinations for teachers and school staff, saying he will use the power of the federal government to get governors “out of the way” if they block efforts to combat the spread of the virus.
“Let me be blunt: My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these life-saving actions,” Biden said. “If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I will use my power as president to get them out of the way.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will withhold the pay for teachers if they require masks in schools. Without saying his name, Biden vowed those teachers will get paid and slammed the Republican governor.
“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,” he said.
As of this writing, 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines. However, the U.S. is seeing more than two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations, and twice the number of deaths compared to this time last year.
“We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” Biden said.
The CDC recommends students who have not been fully vaccinated where the virus is spreading at a rapid pace. Texas and Florida are just two of the states that have made masking in schools not required.
The United States has seen a downward trend over the past week but experts fear that will be short-lived with thousands traveling over the Labor Day holiday weekend.