(TNS) President Joe Biden plans to order all federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in a tough new step aimed at stamping out the pandemic and getting the economic recovery back on track.
Hours before a major speech on the pandemic, Biden mandated all government workers get the lifesaving shots as part of a six-pronged plan to get on top of the virulent delta variant, a White House aide told the Associated Press on Thursday.
The White House is hoping to boost moribund vaccination rates to curb the resurgent pandemic that is killing 1,500 Americans a day and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
The step effectively overrides Biden’s own previous order that would have given federal workers and contractors an option of taking weekly tests and wearing masks if they want to avoid taking the vaccine.
The new order gives no such loophole, a White House aide said. It will likely include only narrow exceptions for those who can prove a viable medical or religious objection.
The vaccine mandate comes in advance of a speech Thursday afternoon outlining a new plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots.
Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools, workplaces and college campuses, especially after the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. The White House hopes the strengthened federal mandate will inspire more businesses to follow suit and order employees to get vaccinated.
Biden will unveil details of the new federal mandate in a speech to the nation set for 5 p.m. EDT.
“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “That’s what our objective is.”
White House aides were tight-lipped about the details of the speech. But it’s clear Biden hopes to tweak his message to win back the once overwhelming confidence of the American public.
The president’s poll approval ratings have dipped a bit as the pandemic has roared back, even though the resurgence is driven by those who have shunned his pleas to protect themselves and their communities by getting vaccinated.
Biden will also likely announce more measures to incentivize vaccine skeptics to break down and get their shots, including teenagers whose vaccination rates have been lower than adults.
He may also urge fully vaccinated people to get booster shots as soon as they are eligible. He will seek to counter anti-vaxxer misinformation that claims the need for third shots means the vaccines are ineffective or unsafe.
Biden will also likely encourage mask-wearing in schools by teachers, staff and students, many of whom are too young to get vaccinated.
He will frame that push as a common-sense back-to-school effort to keep kids safe and to avoid COVID outbreaks that are already forcing many schools to scrap in-person classes.
The reason for the new measures is clear: the once-booming economic recovery is showing signs of flagging amid the delta surge.
The most recent jobs report showed American businesses added far fewer new jobs than expected in August. And with workers fretting about pandemic child care and workplace safety, firms cannot fill the millions of job openings they have.
(By Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News via Tribune News Service)