The President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced on Thursday (29) new measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including the requirement that federal public officials prove that they have been vaccinated, or will have to submit weekly tests, to wear masks obligatorily, keep distance and submit to other rules.
“This is an American tragedy. People who don’t need to die are dying – and will continue to die,” Biden said in a White House speech. “Read the news. You’ll see stories of unvaccinated patients in hospitals; when they’re in their bed dying from Covid-19, they say, ‘Doctor, can I get the vaccine?’ and the doctors have to say, ‘I’m sorry , Now it’s too late'”.
The American president urged private companies to encourage vaccination by creating similar rules for the unvaccinated. The White House plan does not oblige employees to get a vaccine, but it makes life difficult for those who have not been immunized.
Biden also advised the Defense Department to consider including Covid-19 vaccine on the list of required immunizations for members of the armed forces. Hours after the announcement, the Pentagon said the military will be subject to the same rules: unvaccinated will need to undergo regular testing, wear masks, maintain distance and have official travel limits.
Other measures announced by the White House include compensation to companies that offer days off for employees to take family members to get vaccinated. He also urged local governments to use funds from the Covid-19 relief package to offer a $100 incentive to get vaccinated – a measure that was adopted by New York City this week.
The US federal government employs around 4 million people, according to the Associated Press. The number of people potentially affected by the new rules can be even greater if they are considered service providers and people who receive some kind of federal subsidy or grant.
Biden’s announcement comes at a time of rising Covid-19 cases in the United States, which experts attribute to the circulation of the delta variant, which has become prevalent in the country, and hesitation over vaccines, which are freely available to people over 12 years old.
Currently, the vast majority of coronaviruses in the US are unvaccinated – more than 97% of those infected who went to a hospital had not been immunized, the US CDC reported in a White House presentation two weeks ago. In July, the average number of new daily cases quadrupled, reaching almost 67,000 records per day, according to monitoring by the New York Times. Covid-19’s average daily deaths over the past two weeks was 316.
About 615,000 doses are being given daily in the US, a number far below the peak in April when 3.3 million Americans were being vaccinated every day. Around 49% of the American population – and 57.7% of those over 12 years old – have already received full doses of vaccines against the coronavirus.