President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon that the Labor Department will “soon” issue an emergency order requiring employers with 100 or more workers to mandate they get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be forced to undergo a regular testing regimen.
Biden first announced the employer vaccine mandate on Sept. 9 when he signed an order instructing the agency to craft the rule. But there had not been any bureaucratic action taken since, leaving some to speculate that the order was mainly for show, as scores of businesses and corporations, as well as municipal governments, moved to implement the mandate on their own.
But the president’s Thursday nearly six-minute announcement made clear he plans on moving forward, despite the threat of lawsuits from dozens of states, organizations, and businesses, all of whom alleged that he does not have the constitutional authority to force private-sector employees to get the jab.
In his address, after which he took no questions, Biden said the mandate is coming “soon” in order to address the “unacceptably high number” of Americans who are refusing to take the vaccine for various reasons, some of them due to religious objections.
On the virus overall, 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,” he continued.
However, he added that “we’re in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19,” going on to claim 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.
Earlier, the White House indicated that the rule would come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Labor Department agency that regulates the workplace. This week, the department issued a draft regulation to the White House Budget Office, reports said Thursday.
Among groups planning to sue over the mandate include the Republican National Committee, which announced it would file the legal action in the wake of Biden’s September announcement.
Also, on Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order which sought to head off any federal mandate for the vaccine for businesses in the Lone Star State.
But during his address, Biden pushed back on the criticism and outrage over his mandate, saying that “vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us.
“That’s why we continue to battle the misinformation that’s out there,” he added.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 78.5 percent of American adults have had at least one dose of COVID vaccine.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had no information as to when the rule for private sector businesses 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 told reporters.
Arizona, Montana, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, and South Carolina are some of the states that have threatened legal action in response to Biden’s announcement last month.
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