In a series of sweeping new mandates, the administration of President Joe Biden is making it clear that they need all eligible Americans to get vaccinated.
Biden Rolls Out Vaccine Mandates
Biden addressed the nation on Thursday, laying out new vaccine regulations for large businesses, federal workers, and health care staff. The goal of the new mandates is to curb the spread of COVID-19 as cases and hospitalizations continue to spike. The new vaccine mandates could affect as many as 100 million American workers, equaling roughly two-thirds of the employment base.
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Companies that do not comply with the mandate will be fined up to $14,000 for each infraction. While the Biden administration has not confirmed when the mandate will go into effect, they did confirm that they will allow employers a reasonable amount of time to put the processes in place.
Under this same action plan, companies of this size are also required to give their workers paid time off in order to receive the vaccine.
Federal Workers and Contractors Also Under New Mandate
Federal workers serving in the executive branch must also now be fully vaccinated. However, this strict executive order does not allow employees to opt out of the vaccine if they are tested weekly. The order also applies to contractors doing work for the government.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the employees can apply for exemptions for religious and medical reasons. All employees under this mandate will have 75 days to get fully vaccinated. If the process is not completed by this time, they will need to meet with human resources to determine the next steps. This could include job termination.
Although Biden implemented a similar mandate earlier this summer for federal workers, they were given more options to opt out of the requirements. This new executive order eliminates the majority of these exemptions.
New Requirements for Health Care Workers
Biden is also calling on all health care professionals to get vaccinated if they have not already done so. The plan now requires that all workers at facilities receiving federal aid in the form of Medicare or Medicaid get vaccinated. While the previous mandate applied to nursing home staff, the new rules expand the requirement to settings such as home health agencies, medical clinics, and dialysis centers. Over 17 million workers are employed in these settings.
Additional Vaccine Mandates
The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is now requiring that all of the approximately 300,000 educators in the Head Start program receive the vaccine. Teachers under the direction of the Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Education also need to be immunized in order to fulfill the obligations of the legislation.
Biden Appeals to Emotions and Civic Duty
Biden did not take it easy on the unvaccinated during his address, telling them that their “refusal has cost all of us.” The president reminded Americans that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He also empathized with vaccinated Americans that are getting frustrated with the approximately 80 million eligible people who have not been immunized.
These new vaccination requirements represent the most aggressive actions by the Biden administration to date to combat the spread of the virus.
Other Actions Put in Place
In addition to the aggressive vaccination requirements, the Biden team also announced an expansion of the nation’s free testing program. The Defense Production Act will be used to require that companies manufacture additional testing supplies. The Biden administration plans to send 25 million tests to various health clinics at no cost. The measures will also compel retailers to sell the at-home testing kits at cost.
The president asked large entertainment venues to do their part to require either proof of vaccination or negative tests as a condition for entry. Biden also called on state governors to require that all educators be vaccinated.
Los Angeles Public Schools to Require COVID-19 Vaccine
The other significant news of the day relating to the COVID-19 was the news that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) approved a vaccine mandate for students 12 and older. The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted unanimously on Thursday to require the vaccine as the Delta variant continues to rage throughout California.
Home to over 600,000 students, the district is the second-largest in the nation. Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said that there are approximately 225,000 students age 12 and older. Of these, about 80,000 are not yet vaccinated.
Students will need to receive the first shot by November 21 and will need to be fully vaccinated prior to December 19. Any student participating in in-person extracurricular activities will have to start the vaccination process prior to October 3 with a fully vaccinated deadline of October 31. This includes all students playing sports.
The district said there will be some options to opt out for specifically approved exemptions. Students who choose not to get vaccinated and do not have an approved exemption will need to participate in the online Independent Study Program.