UPDATE, 2:22 PM PT: President Joe Biden made another appeal to the unvaccinated, warning that the recent uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths is due to the unwillingness to get the shots.
In doing so, Biden tried to depoliticize an act that has become another part of the partisan divide, as a host of right-wing commentators like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have fomented distrust of the vaccines, while disinformation has spread on social media.
“This is not about red states and blue states,” Biden said. “It is literally about life and death.”
Biden tried to counter suspicion over the administration’s efforts by noting that the vaccines were first developed authorized by a Republican administration (albeit he did not mention Donald Trump’s name) and then administered and distributed by a Democratic one.
“Even the commentators on Fax [sic] who have been belittling this for a long time — some haven’t been, many have — are arguing, ‘Get vaccinated’,” Biden said.
Biden outlined a series of steps that the administration is taking to boost vaccinations, including a requirement that federal workers attest to getting the shot or face a regimen of testing, mask wearing and social distancing. He also is urging state and local communities to offer people $100 each for getting vaccinated.
Biden also tried to push back against skepticism, including fears that the vaccine was developed too fast to know its true side effects. He said that the shots may have been developed in a short period of time, but they are based on decades of research.
Biden said that as of now, the administration was not recommending that those who have been fully vaccinated also get a booster shot. About 164 million people have been fully vaccinated, but Biden said that about 90 million have not gotten the shots.
PREVIOUSLY: President Joe Biden, seeking to curb the spread of the Delta variant, will announce a new mandate for the federal workforce that requires them to attest to having a Covid-19 vaccination or to undergo a regimen of testing and face other restrictions.
Biden also plans to announce that he is directing the Defense Department to look into adding Covid-19 vaccinations to the list of shots required by members of the military.
The new policy also will apply to onsite federal contractors, and Biden also is seeking to extend the requirements to all such workers.
The effort is the latest White House attempt to boost vaccination rates, which stalled this month as surveys show large chunks of the population refuse to get the shots. As of Thursday, 49.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a dramatic reemergence of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, primarily among the unvaccinated, has led the CDC to recommend indoor mask wearing, regardless of status, in certain areas with high case surges. That includes Washington, D.C., where new mask requirements have returned on Capitol Hill and the White House.
The Biden administration’s more aggressive approach to vaccinations comes as major corporations, restaurants and live event venues are making proof of the shots as mandatory to gain access to workplaces and public sites. The White House so far has relied on a softer sell of vaccinations, via celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo and a nationwide campaign of public service announcements.
The White House plans to continue with a carrot and stick approach, as Biden also will encourage local and state governments to offer $100 each to those who get vaccinated, using funds from the American Rescue Plan. Biden also plans to announce that small- and medium- sized businesses will be reimbursed for offering employees time off to get vaccinated, and will promote vaccinations among adolescents. He will call for school districts to host pop-up vaccination clinics as the new school year approaches.