Biden announces new vaccination, testing requirement for large employers

President cautions vaccine refusers: ‘We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us.’
President Joe Biden arrives to the East Room of the White House prior to delivering remarks July 22, 2021. Photo: White House/Cameron Smith

First published by Common Dreams

“The time for waiting is over,” President Joe Biden said in a televised address at the White House on Thursday.

In an effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control as the ultra-contagious Delta variant kills about 1,500 Americans per day and imperils the nation’s fledgling economic recovery, Biden on Thursday announced new vaccine requirements affecting tens of millions of workers in the United States.

One of the sweeping new rules, which Biden unveiled during a speech laying out his administration’s plan to contain the pandemic, stipulates that all employers with more than 100 workers require their employees to be fully inoculated against Covid-19 or face weekly testing. The move will impact roughly 80 million individuals, the Associated Press reported.

“My message to unvaccinated Americans is this,” said the president: “What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We made vaccinations, free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approved. 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.”

The new rule targeting large employers will be implemented through the U.S. Labor Department.

“The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation,” AP noted. “The rule would also require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination.”

In addition, the approximately 17 million people who work at healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding must get vaccinated.

Biden didn’t conceal his growing frustration with unvaccinated Americans who have refused the shots due to unfounded beliefs and misinformation about their safety or efficacy, some of which has been spewed by elected Republican leaders.

“We have the tools to combat Covid-19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner,” said Biden. “These pandemic politics, as I refer to it, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.”

As Common Dreams reported earlier Thursday, several million more workers will be covered by a new vaccine mandate that requires employees of the executive branch as well as contractors who work with the federal government to be vaccinated, with no option for avoidance through regular testing.

The president delivered remarks explaining the new vaccination requirements and other components of his administration’s strategy to tackle the pandemic.

Biden also announced that the federal government is working to expand testing. 

According to AP:

… The White House has secured concessions from retailers including Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger to sell at-home testing kits at cost beginning this week.

The administration is also to send additional federal support to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing. And Biden will call for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.

Congressional Republicans are reportedly already threatening to take legal action against Biden’s new vaccine requirements.

Recent polling, however, found that 55% of U.S. adults support requiring government workers to be fully inoculated, while just 21% are opposed. In addition, surveys have shown that a majority of Americans are in favor of busineses requiring proof of vaccination for entry.