On Thursday 9/9, President Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating vaccine requirements for employees in the federal and private sectors, as well as health care workers and federal contractors. The order will affect as many as 100 million Americans.
President Biden said, "My job as president is to protect all Americans. 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 workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. We're going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers."
Roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that utilize federal Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated. Employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government will also need to be fully vaccinated. As well as staffs of Head Start programs, Department of Defense Schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools. US Postal Service workers will have to get vaccinated or be tested weekly.
The mandate will require that large companies provide weekly testing and paid time off for vaccination. Failure to comply will see the Companies fined $14,000 per violation. Federal fines for airline passengers refusing to wear masks and those on federal property have been doubled. Fines previously began at $250, they now range from $500 to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
In addition, more federal support is being sent to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing. Biden also called for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.
Republican and union leaders criticized the president for overreaching.
The Republican National Committee announced plans to file a lawsuit against the Biden administration. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel stated, "Joe Biden told Americans when he was elected that he would not impose vaccine mandates. He lied. Now small businesses, workers, and families across the country will pay the price. Like many Americans, I am pro-vaccine and anti-mandate. Many small businesses and workers do not have the money or legal resources to fight Biden's unconstitutional actions and authoritarian decrees, but when his decree goes into effect, the RNC will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties."
Governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster said, "Biden and the radical Democrats have thumbed their noses at the Constitution." While American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said, "Changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate.”
According to press secretary Jen Psaki, the order for executive branch workers and contractors includes religious and medical exemptions. Federal workers who don’t comply will be referred to their agencies’ human resources departments for counseling, discipline, and potential termination.
The new mandates are part of the White House's six-pronged strategy to battle the Delta variant and boost vaccinations. The six pillars are: vaccinating the unvaccinated; furthering protection for the unvaccinated; keeping schools open; increasing testing and requiring masking; protecting economic recovery; and improving care for those with COVID-19.
Biden pleaded with the public saying, "What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We've made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So please, do the right thing." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 75% of American adults have had at least one vaccine shot.
The nation’s largest private employer, Walmart said in late July that it was requiring all its workers at their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers who travel within the U.S., to be vaccinated by October 4th.
In late August, CVS Health said it would require certain employees who interact with patients to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Including nurses, care managers, and pharmacists.
Vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said, "There is an aspect to this now that has to do with our country being so divided. This has become so politicized that people can’t see the value of a vaccination that can save their lives. Our own divisions are preventing us from ending a pandemic."
According to the CDC, average confirmed cases in recent weeks per day are about 140,000 with about 1,000 deaths.