Biden Leans In Harder on Shots in Vaccine-or-Testing Mandate
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden escalated his campaign to pressure private employers into imposing coronavirus vaccination mandates in a trip to a Chicago suburb, saying shots would save lives and boost the economy.
“I’m calling on more employers to act,” Biden said Thursday in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. “My message is require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we’re going to beat this pandemic.”
Biden is seeking to increase the vaccination rate as public approval of his handling of the pandemic has been falling. The president said his administration would soon issue regulations to implement a plan he announced last month to require businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure workers are fully vaccinated or face weekly testing.
A growing number of places across the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, are requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues.
“We know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated,” Biden said. “We’re still not there. We have to beat this thing.”
In recent weeks, infections in many parts of the country have started to decline as more people have received shots.
The president visited a work site for Clayco Inc., a construction company that Biden said plans to require vaccinations or weekly testing for its employees.
Touring a data center that Clayco is building for Microsoft Corp., Biden said he’s “allowed to insist that anyone doing any government work has to be vaccinated,” and “it’s beginning to make a profound change.”
Unruly Airline Passengers
Biden also highlighted the example of United Airlines Holdings Inc., which has said that 98.5% of its workforce has complied with an inoculation requirement. The Chicago-based airline was the first U.S. carrier to impose such a requirement.
During the trip, Biden met with United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby, who has said that every airline should mandate Covid vaccines for employees.
At the event, Biden told Kirby his administration is addressing a growing number of unruly airline passengers, some of whom refuse to wear masks while in flight.
“I’ve instructed the Justice Department to make sure that we deal with the violence on aircraft coming from those people who are taking issues,” Biden said. “We’re going to deal with that.”
Also Thursday, two Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the push by the Biden administration to require airline workers to get vaccinated is “unacceptable.” The lawmakers, Sam Graves of Missouri and Garret Graves of Louisiana, said in a letter to the White House they are “very concerned” that the Biden administration is pushing the industry before creating an emergency regulation.
Before Biden’s trip, the White House released a report that found 3,500 U.S. organizations already have a vaccine mandate, including 40% of hospitals and 25% of businesses, following his directive that federal workers and contractors be vaccinated and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration draft regulations for testing requirements.
Several legal challenges have been mounted against the mandates.
U.S. deaths since the start of the pandemic have surpassed 700,000. About 186 million Americans, about two-thirds of those eligible, have been fully vaccinated.
“I know the vaccination requirements are tough medicine, unpopular with some, politics for others,” Biden said Thursday. “But they’re lifesaving, and game changing for our country.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week said 48% of Americans approve of Biden’s management of the Covid pandemic while 50% disapprove.
Late last month, Biden canceled a planned trip to Chicago to remain at the White House to negotiate with warring progressive and moderate congressional Democrats whose differences over the size and scope of his proposed tax and spending plan threatened to sink his entire economic agenda.
The rescheduled trip was Biden’s second as president to Democratic-controlled Illinois. He visited Chicago in July to push his yet-to-be-passed stalled infrastructure plan.
First lady Jill Biden intends to visit Chicago during a two-state Midwest swing next week. And Biden’s housing secretary, Marcia Fudge, was there this week, visiting a housing development and promoting the president’s so-called Build Back Better agenda.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.