Tulsa World

Biden sets broad vaccine mandate

- ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON — In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requiremen­ts affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns and curb the surging delta variant.

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availabili­ty and incentives.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said. The unvaccinat­ed minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

Republican leaders — and some union chiefs — said Biden was going way too far in trying to muscle private companies and workers, a sure sign of legal challenges to come.

Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said in a statement that “Biden and the radical Democrats (have) thumbed their noses at the Constituti­on,” while

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley insisted that “changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriat­e.”

On the other hand, there were strong words of praise for Biden’s efforts to get the nation vaccinated from the American Medical Associatio­n, the National Associatio­n of Manufactur­ers and the Business Roundtable — though no direct mention of his mandate for private companies.

The expansive rules mandate that all

employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also signing an

executive order to require vaccinatio­n for employees of the executive branch and contractor­s who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.

Biden announced the new requiremen­ts in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronaviru­s cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots that has raised doubts among the public over his handling of the pandemic.

Just two months ago Biden prematurel­y declared the nation’s “independen­ce” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the U.S. is seeing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day, about two-and-a-half times more hospitaliz­ations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year.

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