Story by Cassie Clark / Contributing Writer
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President Joe Biden announced on Thursday his newest effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
The plan included a vaccine requirement for all federal employees and contractors, with limited exceptions. In addition, private businesses with more than 100 employees must now require vaccines or weekly virus testing, and employers must offer paid time off for vaccination.
He also issued a vaccine mandate for any healthcare worker employed at a facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid.
Walmart, Kroger and Amazon will now offer at-home testing kits at low cost, and the number of pharmacies that offer free testing will increase to 10,000 locations.
Biden criticized Americans who have not yet received their vaccine. “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said, according to AP News.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, director Dr. Anthony Fauci told Axios that infection rates are 10 times higher than they need to be to end the pandemic. Fauci said the U.S. has 160,000 new cases every day, which is “not even modestly good control.”
The president’s new plan will affect nearly 100 million Americans, and it has sparked heated debate. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Biden’s plan an “assault on private businesses.”
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives Committee that oversees health policy, said, “President Biden continues to undermine confidence in safe and effective vaccines. He is using fear, control and mandates,” according to Reuters.
Infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt Dr. William Schaffner believes the mandate is necessary. “To date, we have relied on a volunteer army…but particularly with the Delta variant, the enemy has been reinforced, and now a volunteer army is not sufficient. We need to institute a draft,” Schaffner said, according to the NYTimes.
It is unclear when the new mandates will go into effect, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said federal employees would have around 75 days to get vaccinated.
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