In a brief, six-minute address to the nation, President Biden on Thursday said that his private-sector COVID-19 vaccine mandate will take effect “soon” to address the “unacceptably high number” of people who don’t want to be vaccinated.
But he took no questions from reporters, for a second straight day after a major address, amid nationwide concerns about rising inflation and a supply-chain crisis that has left store shelves bare and threatens the delivery of holiday gifts as prices for most goods go up.
On COVID-19, Biden said that “we’re making progress. Nationally, daily cases are down 47 percent and hospitalizations are down 38 percent over the past six weeks.”
But he said “we’re in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19” and that “we have to do more to vaccinate 66 million unvaccinated people in America.”
“The Labor Department is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements,” Biden said.
Biden last month announced that most federal workers would need to get vaccinated and that companies with 100 or more employees would have to require the shots or regular testing. The Labor Department submitted a draft regulation to the White House budget office this week.
The Republican National Committee last month said it would sue to halt Biden’s private-sector vaccine mandate and Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order Monday claiming to nullify the federal mandate for the state’s businesses.
Biden pushed back against the backlash in his Thursday remarks, insisting that “vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us. That’s why we continue to battle the misinformation that’s out there.”
According to CDC data, 78.5 percent of US adults have had at least one COVID-19 shot.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said it was unclear when the private-sector rule would take effect.
“We don’t as a longstanding practice comment on the timeline of how long that takes because we want to allow that process to happen,” she said.
Biden hosted another public event Thursday afternoon with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, but didn’t speak there either about US economic woes stoked by inflation and a supply-chain crunch, though he spoke about a ports backlog on Wednesday,
White House chief of staff Ron Klain took heat Thursday for suggesting that reduced consumer purchasing power and supply shortages are “high-class problems” compared to potentially more severe issues like high unemployment.