During a major speech, Biden also unveiled new vaccination requirements for federal workers that will not allow them to opt-out of regular testing. Biden signed an executive order to enforce the updated requirements as part of his administration's new six-point plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden also announced he ordered the US Department of Labor to issue an emergency rule requiring all businesses with over 100 workers to require employees are vaccinated or tested weekly. Companies in violation of the rule could face $14,000 fines per violation.
The new mandate will apply to an estimated 2.5 million civilian federal workers and 100 million workers overall, Biden said. The move follows vaccine mandates already imposed by the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health.
The announcement comes as states across the nation sees record-high number of new COVID-19 cases due in part to the more transmissible Delta variant. Several states are seeing increased hospitalizations at rates that surpassed previously recorded all-time highs.
In the summer, Biden imposed a vaccine mandate on federal workers but allowed workers to opt-out of vaccination with strict testing measures. The White House, CNN reported, wants this updated plan to be a blueprint for other businesses to follow as healthcare professionals battle an influx of new COVID-19 patients.
Some large businesses have already imposed their own vaccine mandates, efforts which the Biden administration applauded.
What's In The Plan
The new plan includes a massive expansion to free COVID-19 testing, something public health experts have long said is necessary to containing the virus, especially as kids return to in-person learning. The Biden administration is committed to purchasing millions of test kits for households across the country. The President said that free testing will be offered at 10,000 pharmacies around the countries.
Vaccination the Unvaccinated
Vaccination rates have increased in recent weeks, though reports show numbers continue to stall. Check out the latest vaccination rates here.
"As soon as they're authorized, those eligible for boosters will be able to get them," Biden said. The extra doses will be available at local drug stores, the president added.
Fines will be doubled for people who refuse to wear masks on planes, Biden revealed. "Show some respect," he said, referencing the numerous videos of anti-maskers on flights who refuse to comply with the federal law.
Keeping Schools Open
Biden urged parents and caregivers of children 12 and older to "get them vaccinated." "They get vaccinations for lots of things," he added.
For those under age 12, Biden said protection against COVID-19 "starts at home," noting vaccination of family members and caregivers.
He said schools should be following guidelines set out to keep children safe, including implementing ventilation systems from federal monies distributed.
All 300,000 workers in the federal Headstart preschool program will also be required to get vaccinated, Biden said.
Biden vowed to get governors who are blocking masking mandates "out of the way."
"I will have your back," Biden said, addressing educators who've faced battles to be safe while teaching children in person.
The economic devastation brought about by the pandemic is wide-reaching and disproportionately impacted already marginalized groups. The USDA revealed Wednesday (September 8) Black and Latino households experienced an increase in food insecurity in 2020. Jobs reports in 2021 show slow employment recovery among Black Americans, particularly Black women.
Small businesses will be allowed to access low-interest long-term loans to assist with worker retention and economic recovery amid the pandemic.
Improving COVID-19 Healthcare
Biden announced the continued use of surge response teams composed of health experts from a variety of federal health agencies
Biden said 1,000 staff have already been deployed to assist in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks have overwhelmed healthcare systems. The Defense Department is preparing to double the number of personnel on the teams.
The government will also be shipping monoclonal antibodies treatments for COVID-19.