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September 09, 2021

Watch President Biden's speech on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, delta variant

The White House outlined a broad plan ramp up the nation's pandemic response

President Joe Biden announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Thursday that will cover all federal workers and will require some private businesses to ensure that employees are either vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus tests.

The president's remarks covered a broad plan to increase vaccination as the country deals with an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant.

Biden's speech can be seen below and the administration's full plan can be reviewed at the White House website.  

The new vaccine mandates will apply not only to federal workers and businesses with federal contracts, but also about 17 million health care workers at hospitals and institutions that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

In the private sector, employers with more than 100 employees will be required to mandate vaccination or else make unvaccinated employees undergo weekly testing.

In total, the White House vaccination requirements will cover some 100 million U.S. workers, representing about two-thirds of the labor force.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday as the plan was being prepared. “That’s what our objective is, so we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”

Psaki also said the White House is continuing to work on a plan for a broader rollout of COVID-19 booster shots, which have thus far only been approved for people with compromised immune systems.

Just about 54% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while about 63% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. About 80 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated. 

The delta variant has complicated vaccine policies because the virus has proven better able to infect those who are already vaccinated, though it greatly reduces the risk of symptomatic illness and hospitalization. Among the unvaccinated, there is evidence that delta may produce more serious illness and higher rates of hospitalization.

"Our overarching objective here is to reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans," Psaki said. "We want to reduce that number, decrease hospitalizations and deaths and allow our children to go to school safely."

Biden's speech also addressed issues surrounding mask-wearing, expanded testing, reinforcements to the nation's economic recovery and efforts to improve treatment options and care for people infected with COVID-19.