President Joe Biden announced measures Thursday to require an estimated 100 million unvaccinated Americans to get injections of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Biden said people who work for the U.S. government will be required to get the shot. In addition, he said businesses that employ 100 people or more will need to ask their employees to get vaccinated or require them to show a negative test result once every week.
Biden said he heard that many Americans were waiting for the vaccines to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last month, the agency approved the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Biden sharply criticized Americans who have not gotten vaccinated.
He said the U.S. is in “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and added: “the time for waiting is over.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 650,000 Americans have died.
Earlier in 2021, some U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Veteran’s Affairs and Health and Human Services, said their employees had to get vaccinated. Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense said all U.S. military members needed to be vaccinated.
Those actions covered about 2.5 million federal workers. Thursday’s announcement means another 2 million people will be required to get vaccinated.
More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But since the appearance of the delta variant in the U.S., the number of cases has climbed to about 140,000 per day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 1,000 people are dying from the coronavirus daily in the U.S.
Biden called the situation “totally unacceptable.”
Experts say most of the cases are in unvaccinated people. Dr. Leana Wen is a health policy professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
She said the United States “cannot accept this to be the new normal.” She noted the number of cases is 300 percent higher today than on the same day last year. If the numbers continue, she said 500,000 people will die from COVID-19 each year. “Surely no one wants that,” she added.
In his announcement, Biden also asked places that hold sporting and musical events to require fans to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.
He also said healthcare workers whose employers receive support from government programs will need to be vaccinated.
All the requirements will affect close to 100 million workers. Unvaccinated workers will have 75 days to follow the government’s advice.
The Associated Press spoke with representatives of two big federal labor groups. They both said the workers affected should be able to have a say in the rules. One called the president’s requirement “ill conceived.”
At one point, Biden asked: “what more is there to wait for?”
Biden also said the government would work to make testing easier by asking stores to sell tests to people so people can test themselves at home. He said the tests would be low cost.
Biden’s announcement included other measures that he thinks will help the U.S. get through the problems caused by COVID-19.
In addition to the new vaccine and testing requirements, the Biden administration offered plans to pay money to schools. It has proposed fines for those who do not wear masks. It also has spoken in support of booster shots for people who are already vaccinated.
In June, the virus seemed to be under control in the U.S. The U.S. recorded 400,000 infections in that month. It only took three days to reach that number last week.
Biden said he understands the U.S. is having a problem.
“We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while,” he said, but added that most Americans “are doing the right thing.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Zeke Miller wrote this story for the Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
shot –n. an injection into the body with a needle
negative –adj. not showing the presence of an infection
variant – n. something that is different in some way from others of the same kind
proof –n. something that shows something is correct or has been done
conceive –v. to think of or create in the mind
booster –adj. something that makes something strong or increases its effects
stretch –n. a period of time