President Joe Biden will launch a tough new approach on the COVID pandemic on Thursday when he announces a vaccine requirement for federal workers and takes a harsh tone with the unvaccinated.
President Joe Biden will launch a tough new approach on the COVID pandemic in a speech Thursday
Biden, in a speech at the White House, will announce a directive requiring the federal government’s 2 million work force to show they’ve been vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
It won’t be a mandate, which the White House has said it won’t issue, but it will be a first step in requiring vaccinations at a small level.
Biden has resisted any talk of a vaccine requirements for the nation but he does control the federal government, one of the largest employers in the nation.
The White House is holding the details of Biden’s Thursday address close to its chest as it finalizes the directive amid rising COVID cases, tied to the highly contagious Delta variant.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would only tell reporters Wednesday that the administration is considering options for federal employees like ‘confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols, like mandatory mask wearing.’
The directive will be delivered in sterner terms than Biden has used previously, a White House official told CNN of the president’s speech, signaling Biden’s growing impatience with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
The goal is to make being unvaccinated such a burden that those who haven’t received their vaccine will have little choice other than to get one.
Some vaccine requirements have started.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday ordered the majority of its health-care workers to get vaccinated.
The Defense Department will be exempt from Thursday’s announcement as it cannot legally require troops to receive the vaccine until the Food and Drug Administration issues its final approval for the drugs. The COVID vaccines are now approved under an emergency use authorization.
Additionally, the White House is backing new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask requirements. The CDC urged fully vaccinated individuals ‘wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.’
The agency said that 63.4 percent of counties now had levels high enough to warrant indoor masking.
The White House and several other government agencies – including the Pentagon and State Department – have issued notices requiring masks indoors.
Over the past month, the average new daily cases across the country have increased by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
Currently, around 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and half of the country is fully vaccinated.
That means that more than 40 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of adults, are not vaccinated at all.
Biden has shown his frustration with people’s refusal to get a COVID vaccine.
‘If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,’ he said on Tuesday.
And the change in the administration’s handling of the pandemic is becoming notable.
Three months ago, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Biden declared: ‘If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. It’s vaxxed or masked.’
On Fourth of July, the president declared the country’s ‘independence’ from the virus as he hosted a massive party on the South Lawn of the White House.
But the rising COVID cases due to the Delta variant and the refusal by a large set of the population to get vaccinated have set back the administration’s strategy.
On Tuesday, the CDC walked back its mask guidelines, requiring them for those fully-vaccinated in areas with high rates of infection.
‘This is not a decision CDC has made lightly…this is something that weighs heavily on me and all of America,’ said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, at a news conference.
She also warned that with unmitigated spread, it could only take a few mutations for the virus to be able to bypass the vaccines entirely.
Some critics are starting to question if the administration moved to fast in lifting the mask guidelines.
‘Psychologically, it’s much harder to get people to charge up the hill once than to have them roll down the hill and have to charge up the hill a second time,’ Democratic strategist David Axelrod told The Washington Post. Americans, he said, will be ‘grumpy’ about having to wear masks again.
The White House has blamed the Delta variant for the shift.
‘We are dealing with a much different strain of this virus than we were even earlier in the spring, back in May, when the masking guidance was done,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Officials have also taken to calling it a pandemic of the ‘unvaccinated.’
‘We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion,’ Biden said. ‘If those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world.’