WASHINGTON (AP) — In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the tens of millions of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, 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, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

Republican leaders — and some union chiefs, too — said Biden was going too far in trying to muscle private companies and workers, a certain sign of legal challenges to come.

Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said in a statement that “Biden and the radical Democrats (have) thumbed their noses at the Constitution," while American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley insisted that “changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate.”

On the other hand, there were strong words of praise for Biden's efforts to get the nation vaccinated from the American Medical Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable — though no direct mention of his mandate for private companies.

The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.

Biden announced the new requirements in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots.

Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the nation’s “independence” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the U.S. is seeing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day, about two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year. Some 80 million people remain unvaccinated.

“We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” Biden said.

After months of using promotions to drive the vaccination rate, Biden is taking a much firmer hand, as he blames people who have not yet received shots for the sharp rise in cases killing more than 1,000 people per day and imperiling a fragile economic rebound.

In addition to the vaccination requirements, Biden moved to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or to maintain face covering requirements on federal property in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

He announced that the government will work to increase the supply of virus tests, and that 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 sending additional federal support to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing. And Biden called for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.

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, an administration official said.

The rule will require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will extend a vaccination requirement issued earlier this summer — for nursing home staff — to other healthcare 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 schools run by the Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Education, affecting about 300,000 employees.

Biden's order for executive branch workers and contractors includes exceptions for workers seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination, according to press secretary Jen Psaki. Federal workers who don't comply will be referred to their agencies' human resources departments for counseling and discipline, to include potential termination.

An AP-NORC poll conducted in August found 55% of Americans in favor of requiring government workers to be fully vaccinated, compared with 21% opposed. Similar majorities also backed vaccine mandates for health care workers, teachers working at K-12 schools and workers who interact with the public, as at restaurants and stores.

Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings like schools, workplaces and university campuses. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Board of Education v oted to require all students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated in the the nation’s second-largest school district.

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said in late July it was requiring that all workers at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as well as its managers who travel within the U.S. be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4. But the company had stopped short of requiring shots for its frontline workers.

CVS Health said in late August it would require certain employees who interact with patients to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. That includes nurses, care managers and pharmacists.

In the government, several federal agencies have previously announced vaccine requirements for much of their staffs, particularly those in healthcare roles like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Pentagon moved last month to require all servicemembers to get vaccinated. Combined, the White House estimates those requirements cover 2.5 million Americans. Thursday's order is expected to impact nearly 2 million more federal workers and potentially millions of contractors.

Biden’s measures should help, but what’s really needed is a change in mindset for many people, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“There is an aspect to this now that has to do with our country being so divided,” said Sharfstein. “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.”

More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases have shot up in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with on average about 1,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the spread — and the vast majority of severe illness and death — is occurring among those not yet fully vaccinated. So-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people occur, but tend to be far less dangerous.

Federal officials are moving ahead with plans to begin administering booster shots of the mRNA vaccines to bolster protection against the more transmissible delta variant. Last month Biden announced plans to make them available beginning on Sept. 20, but only the Pfizer vaccine will likely have received regulatory approval for a third dose by that time.

Officials are aiming to administer the booster shots about eight months after the second dose of the two-dose vaccines.

———

This story corrects the organization of the union official in the 5th paragraph.

Associated Press writers Anne D’Innocenzio, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Hannah Fingerhut contributed.

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(31) comments

gary4books

This cohort of counter punchers should heed the words of Achilles:

“No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! than rule down here over all the breathless dead.”

They may talk about liberty, but they side with death. Or disability.

Why?

gary4books

This is what can happen when people line up to be against that which they oppose (straw figures mostly) and not for what they favor. As if they know what they favor.

C.D.Reid

Kind of like Biden supporters, huh?

gary4books

Like Biden supporters? Of course. Partisans have much in common.

jth7100

CD answers to me because he knows better. Why did he get vaccinated is the question he will totally ignore. My suspicion is that if his god Trump had mandated it, he'd have agreed with it. Biden did it, so he hates it. Stubborn old man syndrome.

C.D.Reid

I "answer" to you, jth? HA! Now that's rich! [lol][lol][lol][lol][lol]

veritas

My, but Mr. Biden's got the a*s for the unvaccinated. I love it when this doddering old fool America somehow elected as president gets his back up. Most of the time he stumbles and mumbles his way through his prepared teleprompted presentations, but when he's really ticked off the dude goes full Mel Gibson. He put a hurtin' on old Corn Pop and, by golly, he'll put a hurtin' on you by twisting your unvaccinated arm until you yell Uncle Joe! If you don't believe him and laugh at him instead, he'll call you out to the parking lot where he will whip your sorry self in a push up contest. The man's a Ding Dong with an attitude who used to be truly but unintentionally hilarious. Now, he's just dangerous.

jth7100

Hey SFB; Trump claims it is his vaccine and recommended that Americans take it. Then he was booed. If you have the guts, answer this question; are you vaccinated?

C.D.Reid

Hey SFB, why do you think one has to "have guts" to say if they were vaccinated? Is it because you have none?

phydeaux994

Why do you lie all the time veritas? Every word in this cartoon of a comment is a lie. Biden is doing the right thing, forcing the stupid to help heal this Country by wearing masks and getting vaccinated. He’s just dangerous? That’s a lie unless you can say exactly how he’s dangerous. Put up veritas, tell us why everything you say isn’t a lie. Everything.

C.D.Reid

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]veritas!

phydeaux994

Well, you support the Supreme Liar and believe “The Big Lie” so we would assume you would give veritas 5 thumbs up. You’re pretty good at it too. Peace✌️😷

MD1756

My father (who is 88 and retired to NC) had to go to the hospital (in North Carolina) from his skilled nursing care facility because of a UTI infection that apparently made it into the bloodstream and additionally he has a kidney stone. He had been fully vaccinated (back in February) and all of his recent Covid tests (twice/week during August) before going into the hospital were negative. His Covid test upon admittance was negative. He was going to be released after one week of intravenous antibiotics but he tested positive for Covid. He was retested two days later and was positive again. He had to stay in the hospital ten additional days because of contracting Covid while in the hospital. During that time he also developed significant bed sores. I called down to the hospital and raised heck and asked if anyone who had not been vaccinated had provided care for my father and the answer was yes. I told them I did not want anyone who was not vaccinated to provide care for my father. It is ridiculous that a patient goes into a hospital and catches a virus that in all likelihood could have been prevented but for the fact that the hospital has staff who remain unvaccinated. Because of that and lack of proper care, he developed bedsores while in the hospital.

Get your damned shots or be held responsible for the problems and costs you impose on others. In my opinion Biden's move is welcome but long past overdue.

Awteam2021

It should be mandated everyone in America eligible for the vaccination be vaccinated. I agree with CD, that should include folks crossing the southern border too.

jth7100

It is certainly within any president's purview to protect the nation's population even if that includes people too stupid to understand it. If it only affected those maskless and unvaccinated, I would have no problem letting it clear the deadwood. But this includes a form of altruism which some find irritating. Too bad.

DickD

When I was four years old, I had to get vaccinated for small pox, before going to Kindergarten. I see this as not being any different!

BlueSky2020

Excellent move by our POTUS.

C.D.Reid

That's a good little sheeple.

Rights? What stinkin' rights, right?

phydeaux994

There are thousands of Laws and mandates that restrict your Rights to do things that could harm you or others Mr. Reid, including vaccines. What’s different about COVID-19 vaccinations and masks? Take off your friggin Dunce Cap and use your brain for something good. RIGHT Mr. Reid?? RIGHT????

C.D.Reid

I see this going to the Supreme Court, just like the DOJ's claim against Texas's new abortion laws will. Biden is so concerned with U.S. citizens being vaccinated, yet where are the vaccine requirements for the thousands and thousands of illegal aliens he's allowed into our country? This moron is so two-faced he's a continual embarrassment to the country.

Awteam2021

So are you for or against mandatory vaccinations? Or do you have two faces?

C.D.Reid

You really want to know what I think, Aw? I think that, after all the questions I've asked you which you've ignored, you have a lot of nerve to ask me anything. That's what I think.

Awteam2021

Sounds two-faced. What question do have that you Me need to explain?

jth7100

CD is too gutless to answer your question. He blames "them immigrants" for COVID, but ignores the over whelming number of mouth breathing Redumblicans in the South refusing the vaccine. CD are you vaccinated? Let's see this answer.

C.D.Reid

Not that it's any of your f-in' business, jth, but yes, I am vaccinated. Now, KMA, you troll.

phydeaux994

f-in’….KMA…oooh, aren’t you a badass? Yuk Yuk Yuk

Awteam2021

Cd, why do you ask so many questions if it’s no one’s f -ing business? Then get so frustrated with responses and when asked questions. Don’t freak out… Just asking for your point of view 🤷‍♂️. Are you uncomfortable arguing your positions without profanity, blowing your stack? Or are you suffering from Tourette syndrome - you can’t help yourself or simply inarticulate?

I agree with you, all crossing the border should be vaccinated.

gabrielshorn2013

CD, while I absolutely agree that anyone crossing our borders must be vaccinated (many other countries are already doing this), I also think that enough is enough. The medical community has tried to convince folks of the criticality of getting vaccinated. As I have said repeatedly, there are three reasons for not getting vaccinated. We can alleviate ignorance with education, and assuage fear with courage, but there is no fixing stupid. The reasons anymore for not getting vaccinated are simply lame. Nearly two billion doses of the mRNA vaccines and J&J vaccine have been administered to people worldwide, with negligible numbers of adverse events. The vaccines are safe, and they work. Full stop. There was no opting out of the smallpox or polio vaccines, and there should be no opting out of this one either. I am a longtime supporter of the rights of the individual. However, If we take that to its full extent, there would be no law. Yes, folks may have the right to not get vaccinated, but society can also make them pariahs. Employers, including the government, can make it a condition of employment. No vaccination, no job. Customers can refuse to have service people in their homes without proof of vaccination. Nobody gets into my home without their vaccine record, or a mask. I already turned away a HVAC technician who had no proof, and am not paying the service charge for him showing up either. As those companies that are lax on their vaccine requirements lose business to those companies that have a high level of compliance, they will either adopt such requirement, or lose so many customers that they go out of business. Insurers also have the right to charge a significant insurance surcharge, as is common for smokers now. We need to get this thing under control before a potentially lethal variant arises. Republican Governor Jim Justice of WV had a great quote in a WaPo article, “For God’s sakes a livin’, how difficult is this to understand?” he said Wednesday. “Why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas — and they’re crazy ideas — that the vaccine’s got something in it and it’s tracing people wherever they go? And the same very people that are saying that are carrying their cellphones around. I mean, come on. Come on.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/09/08/gop-west-virginia-gov-jim-justice-is-done-with-all-that-nonsense-vaccines/

phydeaux994

There has been absolutely no news of COVID-19 surges caused by illegal aliens coming across the Border. NONE. The surges are caused by stupid people refusing to get vaccinated and wear masks. And talk about morons, Abbot said there is no reason to exclude rape and incest from the Abortion Bill because they are going to arrest and put in jail all the rapists in Texas!!?? No more rapists will be allowed in Texas.😂🤣

gabrielshorn2013

Phy, absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence. If a CoViD-positive citizen can convey the infection just by being around others, an unvaccinated CoViD-positive undocumented immigrant can spread the infection with the same behavior. The Federal government already has the authority to require anyone crossing our borders to be vaccinated against a given disease. Many other countries are already enforcing this; France being the latest to not allow unvaccinated Americans to enter their country.

phydeaux994

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