US President Joe Biden on Thursday (Sept.9) announced policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushed businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis.
If businesses don’t comply, the government will “take enforcement actions,” which could include “substantial fines up to nearly $14,000 per violation, according to a senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on the plan ahead of the president’s speech under the condition that his name would not be used.
The new requirements could apply to as many as 100 million Americans — close to two-thirds of the American workforce. Meanwhile, federal employees will now have 75 days to get vaccinated or lose their job unless they fall into limited exemption categories.
Under Biden’s plan, the administration will also require vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers at hospitals and other institutions that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid.
In addition to the vaccination requirements, the Democrat President 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.
Once cautious of vaccine mandates, the Biden administration is now wholly embracing them.
The President also blamed those who refuse to get shots for hurting those around them. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”
“There are currently more than 80 million unvaccinated Americans, we want to lower that number,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier on Thursday.
Biden also criticized the spread of the virus misinformation and “elected officials” who are “actively working to undermine” the vaccination efforts. “A distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner,” he pointed out.
“Get vaccinated,” Biden urged in closing his speech.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives committee that oversees health policy, said Biden “is using fear, control, and mandates.”
The Republican National Committee said it intends to sue the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate.
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.”
Biden’s overall approval has slipped into negative territory amid a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Americans are also less supportive of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
With reporting by Reuters, Texas Tribune, CNN