Sept. 10, 2021 -- President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday night with his new “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan, a six-point agenda to put the country on course to defeat COVID-19, mainly through more vaccine mandates, increased testing, and masking requirements.
Through the new plan, vaccination will be required for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s workforce, or 100 million workers.
Currently, the United States is averaging 150,000 new cases and 1,500 deaths each day, CNN reported.
“If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19,” Biden said in his speech.
There have been wide-ranging reactions to various points of the president’s new plan.
Vaccinating the Unvaccinated
More than 175 million Americans are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, but more than 80 million eligible Americans haven’t received a shot.
The president said it is critical that more of the unvaccinated population get inoculated if we want to fully beat the virus.
To encourage this, he signed executive orders for additional vaccine mandates.
Employers with more than 100 employees must require either COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing for workers.
The new plan also requires vaccinations for federal workers and millions of contractors of the federal government, as well as vaccine mandates for over 17 million health care workers at hospitals and clinics that participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
Some people have said they will likely resign from their jobs over the new vaccine mandates.
But others are trying to remind people that weekly testing is still an option for many unvaccinated Americans.
While the hashtag #IwillNOTComply trended on Twitter after Biden’s speech, many people commented that they would happily take the jobs of those protesting the mandates.
Further Protecting the Vaccinated
Biden said his administration will be ready to offer COVID-19 booster shots as early as Sept. 20, depending on the approval of the FDA and the CDC.
The president’s plan says that boosters will be free and available at more than 80,000 locations across the country, in places like doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other health centers.
“The decision of which booster shots to give, when to start them, and who will give them will be left completely to the scientists at the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control,” Biden said. “But while we wait, we’ve done our part. We’ve bought enough boosters -- enough booster shots -- and the distribution system is ready to administer them.”
Many expressed relief about receiving a third dose of vaccine.
While others remain confused about the science behind COVID-19 boosters and vaccines.
Keeping Schools Safely Open
The president’s plan adds new vaccine mandates and school safety measures to ensure a safe, in-person learning environment for students, teachers, and staff.
Ninety percent of the nation’s teachers and staff members in schools are vaccinated, Biden said.
Right now, vaccines have been approved for children ages 12 years and older.
“What about children under the age of 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet? Well, the best way for a parent to protect their child under the age of 12 starts at home. Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated,” Biden said.
His plan will require vaccinations for teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools, as well as child and youth program personnel at the Department of Defense.
“As with adults, almost all the serious COVID-19 cases we’re seeing among adolescents are in unvaccinated 12- to 17-year-olds -- an age group that lags behind in vaccination rates,” Biden said. “So, parents, please get your teenager vaccinated.”
Some parents expressed comfort in sending their children to schools with COVID-19 safety measures in place.
While other parents find in-person learning too risky right now.
Increased Testing and Mask Requirements
Biden made it clear that even with new vaccine mandates, masking and COVID-19 testing are still as critical as ever.
The president’s plan says that along with more aggressive production of COVID-19 rapid tests, take-home tests will cost less starting at the end of the week and the free COVID-19 testing program at pharmacies will be expanded.
Biden said masking requirements will still be in place at airports, as well as on certain forms of public transportation, such as airplanes and buses.
But with the new plan, those who do not follow the requirements will face double fines.
Despite the higher fines, some say that the travel mandates have been difficult to enforce.
Protecting Our Economic Recovery
To prevent backtracking the nation’s economic progress, the president announced an extension of the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs.
The program will now allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million, up from the original $500,000, to help with money troubles brought on by the pandemic.
The loans are low-interest and require no repayments for 2 years.
Improving Care for Those With COVID-19
The president also announced that the Department of Defense will double the number of military health teams sent to help hospitals across the nation.
Biden said new medicines will be increasingly available, and they are recommended by “real doctors, not conspiracy theorists.”
“The monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe diseases,” Biden said. “Tonight, I’m announcing we will increase the average pace of shipment across the country of free monoclonal antibody treatments by another 50%.”