As part of a new federal COVID-19 action plan, President Joe Biden introduced broad new vaccine requirements for both public and private-sector workers, potentially affecting as many as 100 million Americans.
“We have the tools to combat the virus,” Biden said. “If we can come together as a country and use those tools, if we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking, expanded testing and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19.”
The new plan requires that any private-sector company with more than 100 employees must require either vaccination or weekly negative COVID-19 tests. As part of this requirement, companies must compensate an employee for time off to get vaccinated.
“No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated,” Biden said.
In addition to the private sector, the new plan requires vaccination for all federal executive-branch employees as well as federal contractors.
“If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated,” Biden said.
The president expressed his frustration with America’s vaccine adoption rate, citing certain segments of the population as well as elected officials who have resisted wide-scale vaccination efforts.
“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free,” Biden said. “A distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner.”
Gov. Tate Reeves, in addition to some other Republican governors, fought back against the requirements yesterday and today via his official Twitter account.
“The President has no authority to require that Americans inject themselves because of their employment at a private business,” Reeves said. “The vaccine itself is life-saving, but this unconstitutional move is terrifying. This is still America, and we still believe in freedom from tyrants.”
“Biden’s unconstitutional order is part of a war on working-class Americans, threatening their wallet if they do not comply,” Reeves added this morning. “It is the worst possible way to grow confidence in the vaccine, and beyond that it is wrong. We will use every tool to stop it.”
“Have at it,” Biden said in response to comments like Reeves’ during a press briefing this morning.
“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, with the health of their communities,” Biden said. “We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game, and I don’t know of any scientist out there in this field that doesn’t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I’ve suggested.”
Mississippi is still relying on out-of-state workers to help with the flood of COVID-19 patients in the state. Eight pregnant women have lost their lives to the virus in the past month, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs reported on Wednesday.
“We do know that COVID is especially problematic and dangerous for pregnant women,” Dobbs said.
The Mississippi State Department of Health has now reported more school-related COVID-19 cases this fall than all of last year.
“The overwhelming majority of cases and hospitalizations that we’re seeing are sadly in unvaccinated individuals, and remember we have children less than the age of 12 that are not eligible for vaccination,” Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during an MSDH press conference yesterday.
President Biden echoed Byers’ sentiment during his speech yesterday, touting low hospitalization rates among the vaccinated.
“Based on available data from the summer, only one out of every 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans was hospitalized for COVID per day,” Biden said.
Biden called for an end to politicizing COVID-19 vaccinations, hoping that partisanship might end with the generation of students he visited that day.
“One of the lessons I hope our students can unlearn is that politics doesn’t have to be this way,” Biden said. “They’re growing up in an environment where they see it’s like a war, like a bitter feud. If a Democrat says right, everybody says left; if a Democrat says left, they say right. It’s not who we are as a nation, and it’s not how we’ve beaten every other crisis in our history.
“We’ve got to come together, and I think the vast majority of the American people know we have to do these things. They’re hard but necessary, and we’re going to get them done.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].