President Joe Biden unveiled a six-point plan to combat COVID-19 on Thursday that he said would affect as many as 100 million Americans. The approach includes vaccine mandates, more testing, and increasing availability of an antibody treatment used to cure former President Donald Trump.
According to the White House, Biden’s strategy “will ensure that we are using every available tool to combat COVID-19 and save even more lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe, and protecting our economy from lockdowns and damage.”
Biden said he is “frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated,” appearing to repeatedly blame them for increased transmission across the country.
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals; they are overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer,” he said.
Biden went on to detail his “six broad areas of action” with specific measures intended to slow infection rates.
“Vaccinating the Unvaccinated”
Biden announced that the Department of Labor is developing “an emergency rule” mandating all employers with more than 100 employees to require workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to weekly testing before going to work. The requirement will impact more than 80 million employees in private sector businesses, officials said.
“We must increase vaccinations among the unvaccinated with new vaccination requirements,” said Biden. “This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.”
More than 17 million health care workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement will also be required to be fully immunized.
Further, Biden said he signed a pair of Executive Orders mandating all federal executive branch workers be vaccinated, along with employees of contractors who do business with the federal government.
Biden urged entertainment venues where large groups gather to require patrons be vaccinated for entry or show a negative test.
“Continuing to Protect the Vaccinated”
Biden said while fully-vaccinated people are largely protected from severe illness or hospitalizations related to COVID-19, a booster shot could increase protection even more.
He cited the nation’s top medical experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, saying they “believe the booster is likely to provide the highest level of protection yet.”
His plan calls for states, pharmacies, and medical professionals to prepare to administer the boosters so they can quickly immunize eligible people free of charge once the shots are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Keeping Schools Safely Open”
The president said in order to keep schools safe, the most important step that parents and guardians of all eligible schoolkids can take “is to get them vaccinated.”
“They get vaccinated for a lot of things,” Biden said. “As of adults, almost all of the most serious COVID-19 cases we’re seeing among adolescents are in unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds, an age group that lags behind in vaccination rates.”
“So parents, please get your teenager vaccinated,” Biden reiterated.
He said the best way to protect children under 12 years old who are not eligible for the vaccine is to make sure those around them are fully vaccinated.
“Children have a four-times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in a state with low vaccination rates,” he said.
Biden asked all governors to adopt vaccine mandates for all teachers and school staffers.
“Increasing Testing and Masking”
Biden vowed to use the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests and said his administration has been working with retailers to provide at-home test kits “at cost” as early as next week.
He said free testing at 10,000 pharmacies nationwide would be expanded, while committing billions of dollars to purchase rapid tests for distribution “so that every American, no matter their income, can access free and convenient tests.”
Additionally, Biden said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would “double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.”
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” he warned. “And by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their jobs is wrong. It’s ugly.”
“Protecting Our Economic Recovery”
Biden emphasized, “We cannot let unvaccinated…undo” or “turn back” any economic progress that has been made. He laid out “additional steps to strengthen our economic recovery,” including expanding loan programs that he says would “allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million from the current $500,000 to keep going if COVID-19 impacts on their sales.”
He described the loans as “low-interest” and “long-term,” adding that they would require no repayment for two years.
“Improve Care For Those Who Do Get COVID-19”
Biden said his administration was increasing the availability of new medicines, including monoclonal antibody treatment.
As The Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo reported earlier this week, the treatment “had been found to reduce hospitalization and death from COVID by a stunning 70%, with almost no side effects, based on preliminary findings in recent studies.” However, Biden’s team has been criticized for failing to get the word out about the care. Former President Donald Trump had the antibody infusion when he was infected with COVID last year and made a quick turnaround. “At the time, the treatment was not yet available to the public, and the media bashed Trump for calling the treatment a ‘cure,’” Prestigiacomo wrote.
Biden’s announcements come as his approval ratings recently hit a new low, and as The Associated Press notes, “Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the nation’s ‘independence’ from the virus.”
A recent Gallup poll found 40% of Americans say Biden “is communicating clearly in regard to the coronavirus response,” while 42% disagree.
“This is the first time Americans have not been more positive than negative about his communication, as a presidential candidate or president-elect in 2020 or as president this year,” wrote Gallup Senior Editor Jeffrey M. Jones. “This change is consistent with the decline in his overall job approval rating in July and August that has occurred as new coronavirus infections have spiked in the U.S.”