Vaccinate or face testing: Biden's fresh mandates for big companies
United States President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered new COVID-19 vaccine requirements affecting 100 million Americans. The new mandates impact private-sector employees along with health care workers and federal contractors as the US attempts to stamp out a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases. In strong remarks, Biden also criticized those who have not been vaccinated yet, blaming them for the increasing infections.
In his statement at the White House, Biden slammed those who remain unvaccinated despite months of availability and incentives. "We've been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he said. The unvaccinated "can cause a lot of damage, and they are." Biden added, "We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while."
Now, the new rules require all employers with over 100 workers to vaccinate them or test them weekly. The move affects 80 million Americans. Around 17 million workers at health facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid are also required to be fully vaccinated. Employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the government are also required to be vaccinated.
The mandates for employers require them to provide paid time-off for vaccination, Biden said. Biden blamed people for the sharp rise in COVID-19 deaths. Further, he raised fines for those refusing to wear masks on flights or on federal property. The President said the government will increase testing, adding that entertainment venues and arenas require vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.
Republican leaders said Biden was going too far to strong-arm companies into vaccinating employees. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said that "Biden and the radical Democrats (have) thumbed their noses at the Constitution." Separately, the American Medical Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Business Roundtable praised Biden's efforts. However, they did not mention the mandates for private firms.
In July, Biden had declared that the US was independent of the virus. However, daily infections in the US are now touching an average of about 140,000 and daily deaths reaching an average of about 1,000. More than 208 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose and over 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated. The nation is now pushing for booster doses.