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President Biden announced a list of mandates and incentives to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, with hospitals across the country witnessing a surge of cases in a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.
“We are not fully out of the woods yet,” Biden said, stating that hospital wards were filled with individuals battling COVID-19, 99% of whom are unvaccinated—“unnecessary, avoidable and tragic,” according to the president.
New cases may not lead to the same level of deaths and hospitalizations seen last winter, as 190 million Americans have received at least one shot, yet new modeling forecasts 60,000 more Americans could die by mid-October, adding to the over 609,000 who have already died from the virus.
Biden stated that federal government workers will be required to pledge they have been vaccinated, or get tested at least weekly for COVID-19. A similar approach will apply to federal contractors, mirroring the vaccine mandate for health workers in New York City’s public hospitals, announced last week.
Biden also stated he would work with the Department of Defense to determine if COVID-19 vaccines should be added to required shots for the military, as well as explaining that the federal government would reimburse employers who give employees paid time off to get a vaccine.
Biden also asked local governments to use stimulus funding to give $100 cash incentives to Americans who get newly vaccinated.
Treasury Department: President Biden is calling on state, territorial, and local governments to use COVID relief funds to provide $100 payments for every newly vaccinated American "as an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives."
According to Biden, "It’s time to impose requirements on key groups to make sure they’re vaccinated." He later said he would like to see employers “move in that direction” of requiring vaccines.
The U.S. Justice Department has said that vaccine mandates are legal, and that they have a history dating back to the Revolutionary War. It clarified that vaccines have been required for years for some workers as well as for schoolchildren for infectious diseases such as influenza and measles.