Washington, Sep 9 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Thursday said that he is frustrated by the fact that some 80 million people in the US have not gotten themselves vaccinated against Covid-19 and warned that group that his administration’s patience is “wearing thin.”
The president delivered his remarks in a speech at the White House in which he announced the obligatory vaccination of all federal government employees, a total of 2.1 million people, among other measures to contain the surging number of Covid-19 cases around the country.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” the president said, clearly angry, adding that this unvaccinated minority of US citizens “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”
He said that many Americans are frustrated with the almost 80 million of their fellow citizens who have still not troubled themselves to get vaccinated or have outright opposed being inoculated against the coronavirus.
He added that although the unvaccinated constitute only about 25 percent of the US population, the bulk of whom are complying with the requirement to get immunized against Covid-19, in a big country like the US a minority like this can wreak significant damage.
Biden directly asked those who are refusing to get vaccinated “what more do you need to see” to gain the confidence that the vaccines are safe, and he lamented the fact that their reluctance or outright dismissal of the vaccines is significantly increasing hospitalizations and deaths from the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
The president on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government to get vaccinated, an order providing no option to simply take regular and frequent Covid tests rather than actually getting the shot.
He also ordered the Department of Labor to significantly expand the emergency rules governing vaccination, now requiring that all employers with more than 100 workers must have their employees fully vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.
This latter element of the plan affects roughly 80 million Americans, and an administration official said that the requirement will be underscored by a soon to be announced Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule carrying penalties of up to $14,000 per violation and although Biden did not say when this provision would go into effect the White House said that workers would have sufficient time to be vaccinated.
Moreover, all 17 million workers at health facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid will also have to be fully vaccinated if they want to keep their jobs.
The president said that these new mandates will affect some 100 million workers, two-thirds of the country’s work force.
Biden also promised to stand up to Republican governors and politicians who have tried to prohibit facemask mandates or vaccinations in schools, saying that they will have to stand aside if they refuse to cooperate with his overarching strategy.
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 53.3 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, including 62.4 percent of people over age 12.
However, the regional distribution of vaccinated Americans is markedly uneven, with much of the southern US – states like Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi – having much lower levels of vaccination.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant throughout the US has created a somber scenario for the country, which has suffered the highest official Covid-19 death toll of any nation in the world and last week saw more than 150,000 newly confirmed Covid cases for the first time since January, a situation that is saturating hospitals and leading to the Covid deaths of more than 1,000 people each day.