Clearly Fed Up Biden To Take Nation Out Behind Gym, Vaccinate It

Joe Biden has had just about all he can take of people refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, so in a speech yesterday he announced a big damn package of vaccine mandates and other measures aimed at getting the current wave of Delta variant infections under control. Most notably, the Labor Department will require that all companies with more than 100 employees require their workers to either get vaccinated, or to be tested for the virus weekly.

Biden also took a new tone in his remarks, reflecting the irritation many (hell, most) Americans feel toward those who won't get vaccinated because rightwing media and politicians have lied to them.

My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We've made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient.

The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.

We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing.

It was a pretty good speech, laying out the new six-point plan to fight the virus and making clear this malarky has gone on too long, and we can't let it keep killing people.

Biden didn't set any target date when the pandemic would be over; instead, he acknowledged America is "in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while," and calling actions by elected officials that undermine public health "totally unacceptable." Biden reviewed the progress the country has made in getting people vaccinated — about 75 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose — but said the unvaccinated 25 percent are driving the resurgence of the pandemic, even though the vaccine dramatically cuts infection rates and protects people from becoming seriously ill.

But what makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans – supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner. These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.

And we bet most Americans said, as we did, that it's damn well about time that ended.

The White House released a detailed overview of the six-point plan for increasing vaccinations and keeping Americans safe; the key new elements are the workplace mandates, which will require all companies with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccines, or for workers who won't get vaccinated, weekly testing. The Labor Department rules will also require those companies to allow paid time off for their workers to get vaccinated.

That will apply to about 80 million workers, the White House estimated. Biden noted that many companies already have such requirements, including "United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News."

Nicely put, Joe.

In addition, Biden expanded the vaccine mandates he had already put in place for federal workers, mandating vaccines — and no option for skipping the shot and getting tested — for all executive branch employees, as well as for employees of government contractors and workers

in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities – a total of 17 million healthcare workers.

If you're seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated. Simple. Straightforward. Period.

Beyond getting more Americans vaccinated, Biden also reminded vaccinated people that they're still very much protected, and that "breakthrough infections" remain relatively rare — only about "one confirmed positive case per 5,000 fully vaccinated Americans per week." He noted that while the FDA is still working out the details on approving booster shots, the administration plans on going ahead with those once they're authorized, possibly as soon as the week of September 20.

Getting kids safely back to school, Biden said, is perhaps the most important part of his plan, and he reminded parents that kids aged 12 and up should get vaccinated, and to protect those 11 and younger, schools need to require all students and staff to wear masks, because damn it they work. He noted that "about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated. We should get that to 100 percent," and said he's ordering staff at schools run by the Defense Department and the Interior Department (i.e., Bureau of Indian Affairs schools) to be vaccinated, because federal employees. All educators working in Head Start programs, too.

Biden called on all state governors to mandate vaccination for school employees as well, but recognizing that a lot of Republican governors are butts, said he'd use whatever power the federal government can to support schools that want to require masks but are being prevented from doing so:

Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools.

The Education Department is already looking at taking legal action, he noted, and he repeated a promise that if school districts have money withheld for keeping kids safe (Biden didn't silently mouth the name "DeSantis" here, but could have), then federal school aid from the American Rescue Plan will be there to make up the difference.

On top of that, Biden promised to ramp up the availability of testing, in schools and elsewhere, and announced that he'll use the Defense Production Act to make home test kits available, at cost, at major retailers, so people can be sure whether it's just a cold (or just the smoke from the goddamn wildfires) or if they have COVID-19 and must isolate.

And damn, this was good to hear: The TSA will be doubling fines for people who refuse to mask on airplanes. And we suspect a lot of us are going to gladly repeat this line: "Show some respect!"

Biden also announced new federal aid for small businesses struggling because of the pandemic, and help with getting federal medical staff — from the military, HHS, and FEMA — to hospitals that are having difficulty handling all the unvaccinated filling up their ERs, ICUs, and in some cases, emergency COVID wards set up in parking garages and hospital conference rooms.

So he could close on a positive note, Biden pointed out that in some states where the Delta variant started getting really bad in August, vaccination rates are also up, and that's starting to help bring down infections. So how about we all get serious and together we kick this pandemic's ass like Americans, huh?

[White House Action Plan / White House speech transcript / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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