WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden unveiled his six-pronged plan to combat COVID-19 in the U.S. this fall.
In a speech Thursday, Biden zeroed in on the unvaccinated.
"Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free," Biden said.
Biden said COVID-19 is currently responsible for a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
"What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see," Biden asked as he touted the safety of the vaccines.
Biden claims his plan will ensure the U.S. is using every tool to combat the coronavirus and save lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe, and protecting the economy from lockdowns and further damage.
The plan will both increase incentives and requirements to get people vaccinated, as well as deploy more testing, masking, and other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 while vaccination rates increase.
Specifically, the president’s plan is broken down into six parts:
1. Vaccinating the unvaccinated
Large employers to ensure workers are vaccinated or tested weekly
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees, according to the White House.
Vaccinations required for all federal workers, contractors that do business with government
Biden has signed executive orders to require all federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated and the standard will be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government.
Vaccinations required for over 17 million health care workers at Medicare, Medicaid hospitals
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. The requirement will apply to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care. These requirements will apply to approximately 50,000 providers and cover a majority of health care workers across the country.
Calling on large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing
Biden’s plan calls on entertainment venues like sports arenas, large concert halls, and other venues where large groups of people gather to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.
Requiring employers to provide paid time off to get vaccinated
OSHA is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather postvaccination.
2. Furthering protection for the vaccinated
Providing easy access to booster shots for all eligible Americans
The administration says it’s preparing for boosters to start as early as the week of September 20, subject to authorization or approval by the FDA and a recommendation from ACIP. Officials say these shots will be free, and widely available across 80,000 locations.
Ensuring Americans know where to get a booster
When the booster shots are approved, officials say Americans will be able to find a vaccination site at Vaccines.gov, including what vaccines are available at each site and, for many sites, what appointments are open. A toll-free number, 1-800-232-0233, will also be available in over 150 languages. Americans who have already utilized the text code 438829 or WhatsApp to get vaccine information will automatically receive a text with information on boosters, if and when recommended.
3. Keeping schools safely open
Requiring staff in certain schools, programs to be vaccinated
The president’s plan includes requirements that teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs, teachers and child and youth program personnel at the Department of Defense (DOD), and teachers and staff at Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools get vaccinated.
Calling on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees
Currently, nine states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have vaccination requirements for K-12 school staff, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Biden is asking more states to join in requiring the vaccine for school employees.
Providing additional funding to school districts for safe school reopening
Through the president’s plan, the Department of Education plans to make additional funding available—beyond ARP dollars— to help local school districts fill gaps when funding has been withheld by their state for implementing COVID safety measures. Local school districts will be able to apply in the coming weeks to restore funding withheld by state leaders—such as for school board member or superintendent salaries who have had their pay cut.
Using full legal authority to protect access to in-person instruction
Biden has directed the Department of Education to assess all of its available tools to take action to ensure that state and local officials are giving all students the opportunity to safely participate in full-time, in-person learning. To date, the department has launched investigations in five states that have prohibited mask mandates at schools.
Getting students and staff tested regularly
The administration is calling on all schools to set up regular testing in their schools for students, teachers, and staff consistent with CDC guidance.
Providing FDA resources to support review of vaccines for those under 12
Biden says his plan supports the independent scientific review of a vaccine for those under 12 and will provide the FDA with any needed resources to support its ongoing efforts to do this safely and as quickly as possible.
4. Increasing testing and requiring masking
Mobilizing industry to expand easy-to-use testing production
Biden says his plan will mobilize industry to accelerate the production of rapid COVID-19 tests, including at-home tests, and continue to ensure that manufacturers prioritize creating these products to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
Making at-home tests more affordable
Biden says top retailers that sell at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests—Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger—will offer to sell those tests at-cost for the next three months. This means that Americans will be able to buy these tests at their local retailers or online for up to 35% less starting by the end of this week, the White House says.
Sending free rapid, at-home tests to food banks and health centers
The White House says 25 million free at-home rapid tests will be sent to 1,400 community health centers and hundreds of food banks to ensure that every American can access free, convenient, at-home tests.
Expanding free pharmacy testing
The administration says it will expand the number of retail pharmacy sites around the country where anyone can get tested for free through the HHS free testing program to 10,000 pharmacies.
Continuing to require masking for interstate travel and double fines
Under Biden’s plan, masks will continue to be required in airports and on certain modes of public transportation, including on many airplanes, trains, maritime vessels, and intercity bus services. The president’s plan will double fines for those who are not in compliance. The plan will also ensure that masking requirements remain in place on the other modes of transportation.
Continue requiring masking on federal property
Biden’s plan will ensure that mask and physical distancing requirements remain in place in federal buildings, on federal lands, on military bases, and other overseas locations, consistent with CDC guidance.
5. Protecting our economic recovery
New support for small businesses impacted by COVID-19
The president says his plan will help more than 150,000 small businesses by strengthening the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term, low-cost loans. The improvements will allow more business to get greater and more flexible support from the $150 billion in loanable funds still available in the program.
Streamlining PPP loan forgiveness for small loans
The president says his plan will make it easier for more than 3.5 million PPP borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less to get their loans wiped clean. Under the new streamlined approach, SBA sends a pre-completed application form to the borrower who can review, sign, and send back to SBA, which then works with the lender to complete the forgiveness process.
Launching Community Navigator Program to connect small businesses with help
The ARP invested $100 million to establish a new SBA Community Navigator program, which will deploy trusted community partners in underserved communities to better connect business owners to federal, state, and local resources. Community Navigators will work with small business owners every step of the way to ensure that they are able to access the help that they need. Under the president’s plan, the SBA will complete the competitive review process to select Community Navigators and put them to work in underserved communities this fall.
6. Improving care for those with COVID-19
Increasing support for COVID-burdened hospitals
The president says his plan will provide additional support for hospitals facing capacity issues. The Department of Defense is announcing a commitment to double the number of DOD teams of clinicians deployed to support hospitals battling a surge in COVID-19 cases. These clinicians will be available for mission assignment through FEMA’s response across surge states.
Getting life-saving monoclonal antibody treatment to those who need it
The administration will increase the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to states by a further 50% in September. Monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease.
Expanding pool of health care professionals providing treatment
The administration’s COVID-19 surge response effort will launch monoclonal antibody strike teams to deploy clinical personnel through HHS, FEMA, and DOD to help hospitals and health systems stand up the delivery of this key treatment option.
Governor Ducey's response
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey released the following statement Thursday in response to the White House announcement:
"Joe Biden has failed us on COVID. He ran for office on a promise to 'shut down the virus.' He has failed on this, much as he has failed on the border crisis and in Afghanistan. So now, President Biden's plan is to shut down freedom.
"COVID-19 is a contagious disease, it is still with us and it will be for the foreseeable future. President Biden's solution is hammering down on private businesses and individual freedoms in an unprecedented and dangerous way.
"Today marks another egregious big government overreach robbing Arizonans and all Americans of their fundamental rights to make their own decisions about their health and the health of their children.
"President Biden's dictatorial approach is wrong, un-American and will do far more harm than good. How many workers will be displaced? How many kids kept out of classrooms? How many businesses fined?
"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective tools to prevent the disease, but getting the vaccine is and should be a choice.
"These mandates are outrageous. They will never stand up in court. We must and will push back."