President Joe Biden’s new six-pronged approach to handling COVID-19 hopes to protect Americans while also introducing new regulations to help the economy and keep schools open amid the raging delta variant.
The six-pronged plan aims to vaccinate the unvaccinated, protect the vaccinated, keep schools open, increase testing and mask requirements, protect the economy and improve COVID-19 care, all through a science-based approach.
When it comes to vaccinating more Americans, the federal government has employed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, to require either vaccinations or regular testing for nearly 80 million Americans, according to the Biden Administration’s official COVID-19 Action Plan, as stated on the White House website.
“OSHA is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work,” the website reads.
The White House website also mentions requirements for paid leave for all federal workers and Medicare and Medicaid-participating hospital workers to receive vaccinations.
Getting more workers vaccinated is key to ending the pandemic, Biden said in an address to the nation on Sept. 9.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said. “It’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months, free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 22, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 65 and older and those at high risk for illness or exposure. These shots are expected to be available by the end of the week, according to ABC News.
The Biden Administration also plans to keep schools and students safe through increased vaccinations.
“To help ensure the safety of students, families and their communities, the president’s plan includes requirements that teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs, teachers and child and youth program personnel at the Department of Defense and teachers and staff at the Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools get vaccinated,” the COVID-19 Action Plan states.
During his Sept. 9 remarks, Biden also asked state governments to help promote the vaccination of educators.
“I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff,” Biden said. “Some already have done so, but we need more to step up. Vaccination requirements in schools are nothing new. They work.”
The Biden Administration also hopes to expand the production of affordable COVID-19 rapid tests to promote faster and more regular testing, according to the Action Plan.
“President Biden’s plan will mobilize industry due to the urgent and compelling need to accelerate the production of the rapid COVID-19 test,” the Action Plan reads.
When it comes to protecting the economy, the president’s plan will introduce more support for small businesses and make improvements to the current Payment Protection Program loan forgiveness process.
“The president’s plan will help more than 150,000 small businesses by strengthening the COVID[-19] Economic Injury Disaster Loan [or] EIDL program, which provides long-term, low-cost loans,” the Action Plan reads. “The improvements will allow more businesses to get greater and more flexible support from the $150 billion in loanable funds still available in the program.”
For the final part of its new approach, the Action Plan states the administration will double the number of DOD teams working with hospitals.
“These clinicians will be available for mission assignment through FEMA’s response across surge states,” the plan reads.
These new regulations have received backlash from Texas Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who believes the federal government is overstepping its bounds.
“The federal government needs to stop trying to run private businesses,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s spokesperson, said in a statement to the Texas Tribune.
Republican states are likely to challenge the federal government, and some cases may even make it to the Supreme Court, Texas A&M political science professor Max Crook, Ph.D., said.
“It’s quite likely to make it to the Supreme Court, the states are definitely going to sue … because that’s the nature of our society at the moment,” Crook said.
Biden’s full remarks, as well as an official outline of the administration’s COVID-19 action plan can be found at whitehouse.gov.