SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – President Joe Biden announced new federal regulations to get roughly 100 million more Americans vaccinated. The president says the pandemic is lasting longer than expected and has a six-point plan to end it.
Biden’s plan includes: vaccinating the unvaccinated, further protecting the vaccinated, keeping schools safely open, increasing testing & requiring masking, protecting our economic recovery, improving care for those with COVID-19.
“The bottom line, we are going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” says the 46th President. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s caused by the fact that despite that America having unprecedented and successful vaccination programs. Despite the fact that almost five months, free vaccines were available in 80,000 different locations. We still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”
The president calls it pandemic politics. Adding, “What makes it extremely more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID 19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from.”
With new tools added Thursday night, the president is requiring all federal workers and contractors to get a COVID-19 Vaccine.
Any company with more than 100 employees will also need to show proof of vaccination or have employees get tested once a week.
In Utah, officials with Workforce Services say it affects more than 2,000 companies.
“If you want to work for the federal government, and do business with us, get vaccinated,” says the president.
Those in the medical field who get Medicare or Medicaid funding also need to prove vaccinations.
“It was a little surprising to me personally. I don’t think anybody was expecting such sweeping change coming from the federal government,” says U of U Health Chief Medical Operations Officer Dr. Russell Vinik.
Officials with University of Utah Health say more than 75 percent of its medical staff is vaccinated. The healthcare system is requiring all of its employees to be vaccinated.
“Our message to them is you need to comply,” says Dr. Vinik.
Over at Intermountain Healthcare officials say 75 to 80 percent of employees are vaccinated and they’re adding more people every day.
Those who don’t comply with these requirements could face a federal fine of up to $14,000.
Governor Spencer Cox releasing this statement to Utahns:
Getting vaccinated is the single most important thing people can do right now to protect ourselves and our community and reduce the spread of the Delta variant. While we support efforts that encourage vaccinations, we have serious concerns about the legality of the order.
Attorney General Sean Reyes also weighing in:
My office will fight any unconstitutional limitation of
individual liberties and privacy while continuing to
promote safe health practices in our state. My team is
already reviewing the proposed regulations.
Regardless of where you stand on vaccinations overall,
the federal government should not be able to mandate
such a personal medical decision to employers and individuals.
Utah has employed a responsible approach to the pandemic.
We will continue to do so without need of an autocratic mandate from the White House.
COVID Testing is a big concern, and for the next three months, the president says Amazon, Smiths, and Walmart will sell kits at cost.
The president says more tests will head to pharmacies, community centers, food banks, and school districts free of cost.
Educators are also mentioned in the sweeping regulations. Those who are in the federal Head Start program, Department of Defense Schools, and Bureau of Indian Education will be required to get a vaccine.
The president says to get everyone unvaccinated a shot, employers will need to provide paid time off to the employees.
“No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated,” says the president.
To limit the spread of the virus, mask mandates at airports and on interstate highways will extend through January 18th.
All of this is welcoming news to those on the COVID-19 front lines.
“Having anything that can reduce the number of patients in the hospital is a good thing for all of us,” says Dr. Vinik.
President Biden says he plans to issue more regulations in the coming weeks to end the fight against COVID-19.