by Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday called some Republican governors “cavalier” to oppose his call for far-reaching new federal coronavirus vaccine requirements he hopes will curb the rising delta version.
Biden visited a public school not far from the White House to make the case for new rules set a day earlier that could affect up to 100 million Americans.
He also pushed back against Republicans and some union officials, who he says are eroding his authority. Biden said he was running away from his responsibility to young Americans.
“I am so disappointed that some Republican governors in particular are so careless with the health of these kids, so careless with the health of their communities,” Biden said during a visit to Brookland Middle School in Northeast DC. Not there “
The new federal vaccine requirements will affect private sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors.
First Lady Jill Biden, who joined the president for a school visit, echoed Biden’s message that vaccinating more Americans was essential to keeping schools open and helping working parents.
“We promise to keep their schools as safe as possible,” the first lady said. “We give them a commitment to follow science. We owe them unity so that we can fight the virus, not each other.”
Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden sharply criticized the millions of Americans who have yet to be vaccinated, despite months of availability and encouragement.
“We have been patient. But our patience is running out, and your refusal has cost us all,” he said, cutting his words. Unaffiliated minorities “can do great harm, and they are.”
Republican leaders – and some union chiefs too – said Biden was going too far in trying to project private companies and workers, a sure sign of legal challenges to come.
Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina said in a statement that “Biden and the Radical Democrats[have]poked their noses at the Constitution,” while Everett Kelly, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, insisted that “such changes But we should be negotiated with” bargaining units where appropriate. “
Asked Friday about a possible legal maneuver to prevent the implementation of new vaccine requirements, Biden retorted: “Focus on it.”
There are also strong words of praise for Biden’s efforts to vaccinate the nation from the American Medical Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and business roundtables – although there is no direct mention of his mandate for private companies.
The sweeping rules state that all employers with more than 100 workers are required to be vaccinated or tested for the virus weekly, affecting nearly 80 million Americans. And the nearly 17 million workers in health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid must also be fully vaccinated.
Biden also requires vaccinations for executive branch employees and contractors who do business with the federal government – with no option to get tested. This includes several million more employees.
Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the country’s “independence” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of vaccines, the US is seeing nearly 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day, nearly two and a half times more hospitalizations, and nearly double the number. . Number of deaths compared to the same time last year. Some 80 million people remain unaffiliated.
In addition to vaccination requirements, Biden doubled federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or maintain face covering requirements on federal property in accordance with Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
He announced the government would work to increase the supply of virus tests, and the White House secured concessions earlier this week from retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell at-home testing kits.
The administration is also sending additional federal aid to schools to help them operate safely, including additional funding for testing. And Biden called for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccination or proof of a negative test for admission.
An administration official said the requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly tests for employees would be enforced through an upcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which carries a fine of $14,000 per violation.
The rule would require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will expand the vaccination requirement released earlier this summer — for nursing home staff — to other health care settings, including hospitals, home-health agencies and dialysis centers.
Separately, the Department of Health and Human Services will require vaccinations in Head Start programs as well as in schools run by the Defense Department and the Indian Bureau of Education, affecting about 300,000 workers.
According to Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Biden’s order for executive branch employees and contractors includes exceptions for workers receiving religious or medical exemptions from vaccinations. Federal employees who do not comply will be referred to their agencies’ human resources departments for counseling and discipline to include possible termination.
Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings such as schools, workplaces and university campuses. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to require all students 12 and older in the nation’s second-largest school district to be fully vaccinated.
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said in late July that it would require all employees at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers traveling within the US, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4. Was. But the company had reduced the need for shots to its frontline workers.
CVS Health said in late August that some employees interacting with patients would need to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. This includes nurses, care managers and pharmacists.
In government, several federal agencies have previously announced vaccine requirements for most of their employees, especially in health-related roles like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pentagon moved last month to require all servicemembers to be vaccinated. Combined, the White House estimates those requirements cover 2.5 million Americans. Thursday’s order is expected to affect nearly 2 million more federal employees and potentially millions of contractors.
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed reporting.