President Biden on Thursday used the full force of his presidency to push two-thirds of American workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, reaching into the private sector to mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing.
Mr. Biden also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.
The sweeping actions, which the president announced in a White House speech, are the most expansive he has taken to control the pandemic and will affect almost every aspect of society. They also reflect Mr. Biden’s deep frustration with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for shots but have not gotten them.
“We’ve been patient,” Mr. Biden said in a sharp message to those who refuse to be vaccinated. “But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”
Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now moving more aggressively than any other president in modern history to require vaccination, experts say. In his remarks, he promised to “protect vaccinated workers from the unvaccinated.”
“We can and we will turn the tide on Covid-19,” he said.
Even so, Mr. Biden conceded that the mandates would take time to “have full impact.” They are also all but certain to be the subject of legal challenges; already, the largest union representing federal workers has raised questions. It is also unclear how many workers subject to the new mandates have already been vaccinated.
Mr. Biden is acting through a combination of executive orders and new federal rules. Under his plan, private sector businesses that have 100 or more employees will have to require vaccination, or mandatory weekly testing, after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration drafts a rule. Roughly 17 million health care workers employed by hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement will also face strict new vaccination requirements, as will federal contractors and most federal workers.
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