Yesterday President Biden addressed the nation about the COVID crisis and laid out a major plan for how to go about combating it. I had been waiting for him to make such a speech for a while. Since the Delta surge, he’d only addressed COVID briefly, in tweets and in comments to reporters.
It seemed well past due for him to address the American people and lay out a plan for how to address the current crisis. After all, we are currently in a horrible place when it comes to COVID, with about 1,500 Americans dying a day, and thousands of people hospitalized—including an unconscionable number of of children.
Clearly, the “please get vaccinated, everyone” requests weren’t working well enough, especially since millions of Americans are still refusing the shot.
I listened to his speech live (while trying to feed my kids dinner, and break up several fights, but that’s a whole other story), and was mostly very happy with the plans that he laid out. There were definitely some other issues that I wished he’d addressed more head on (like mandating masks in public places, in addition to vaccination). But I also know there is only so much legal authority he has as president.
I was very happy that he addressed the feelings that so many frustrated Americans like me are feeling. Biden spoke directly to parents who were worried about sending their kids back to school (*frantically shoots up hand*), and got right to the heart of the matter in terms of what so many of us are thinking and feeling about the current state of the pandemic.
“For any parent, it doesn’t matter how low the risk of any illness or accident is when it comes to your child or grandchild,” Biden said. “Trust me, I know. So, let me speak to you directly. Let me speak to you directly to help ease some of your worries.”
GUT. PUNCH. Yes, I started to tear up at this part.
Biden also directly addressed the folks who’d refused the vaccine, saying, “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”
Yes, dude. Preach. Enough of this bullshit already. Those of us who have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated are sitting here like, “This is the worst damn group project in the world.”
Biden’s six point plan to combat the pandemic focuses most on mandating vaccines so that as many Americans get vaccinated as possible, and so that we have a fighting chance of getting to the other side of this pandemic. His plan is bold and sweeping, and is certainly going to piss a lot of people off, especially those in the “but my freedoms!” crowd.
Let’s take a look at the six part plan, and what impacts it may have for us all.
Mandating Vaccines For American Workers
Biden’s plan aims to mandate vaccinations for about two-thirds of the American workforce, which is estimated to be about 2.5 million workers.
First, since Biden is basically their boss, he is mandating that anyone who works for the federal government has to be vaccinated. There is no “weekly testing” option for that one either. This mandate includes anyone who works for the federal government, and includes contract employees.
Biden is calling on the Department of Labor and OSHA to make a regulation requiring any company with over 100 employees to require their employees to be vaccinated. These employees will have a weekly “test out” option as well.
Finally, Biden will require folks who work for Medicare or Medicaid to be vaccinated. This will affect 17 million healthcare workers and will ensure the patients they work with will be protected.
He will also be requiring employers to give people paid time off to get the shots.
Protecting Vaccinated People Further With Booster Shots
There is a lot of confusion and controversy over booster shots, but Biden says that booster shots will likely be necessary for at least some portion of the population. The FDA will be meeting soon to determine who needs them and when they should be getting them. But Biden told the American people in his speech that his administration will be ready to give them out as soon as they are approved and will be sure that they are accessible to people who need them most.
Protecting Our Kids In School
A good portion of Biden’s speech revolved around parents with school age kids. Not only did he reassure parents that his administration knows how hard it is to be raising kids right now, and that there are legit fears about their safety returning to school, but he laid out some science-backed ways that schools can work to protect kids.
Unfortunately, Biden doesn’t have the authority to mandate vaccines for teachers and staff, or eligible kids, but he is strongly encouraging states to do this. He’s mandating shots for any federal workers who work in school environment or who work with kids (Head Start, Department of Defense Schools, and Indian-Education Operated Schools).
Biden will also be increasing funds to schools for them to open safely. He’s encouraging schools to test their teachers and students as much as possible, and he will be making up any lost wages from teachers/staff who were reprimanded for implanting masking rules.
Biden says that he is urging authorities to move as quickly as possible to make kids under 12 eligible for the vaccine. But he doesn’t want to cut any safety corners to get there. (That’s fair, but OMG, PLEASE HURRY UP.)
More Testing And More Masking
Biden is urging increased test protocols and increased masking whenever possible. One really cool thing he’s doing is using the Defense Production Act to scale up manufacturing of at-home rapid tests and having them be sold at-cost (so, like $5) at places like Walgreens and Amazon. This will hopefully get more folks to test themselves regularly, and certainly when they know they’ve been exposed or have symptoms.
Biden can’t require masks except in places with federal jurisdiction, but he’s going to double the fines for folks who violate mask mandates on interstate travel. BRAVO!
Americans are hurting, not just from COVID, but from economic stress and uncertainty. Biden’s plan seeks to address these things. He’ll offer expanded loans to small businesses, and will work on streamlining the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and loan forgiveness programs.
Biden will also broaden the Economic Injury Disaster loan program. This will “allow for small businesses to borrow up to $2 million — up from the current $500,000 — in low interest, long-term loans if their sales have been impacted by Covid-19,” according to CNN.
Making Improvement To COVID Care
Biden’s last piece will address the current Delta crisis head-on. He’ll continue to send personnel to hospitals that are hard hit with COVID patients, and he’ll deploy folks who can help with testing and contract tracing.
Biden made a big push toward increasing access to monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID too (one of the therapies that have actually been proven to work, unlike horse paste, ahem). Shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments will increase by 50% in September, Biden announced. Biden will also be sending personnel from FEMA, HHS, and DOD to help administer these treatments across the nation.
WHEW. That’s a lot, right?
Look, like I said, I wish there were a couple more things in Biden’s plan, like some sort of way to ensure that everyone wears mask in indoor public places. There is ample evidence that masks are an important tool right now for stopping this current surge. It really pisses me off that if I take my unvaccinated kid to the drug store, they might encounter any number of maskless people who may or may not be vaccinated (sorry, Biden, but the honor system is not working).
Still, I am very happy to see that Biden came out and put together as bold an agenda as he did. We have amazing vaccines, they are free to everyone, and they are our way out of this nightmare. As Biden himself said, we’ve waited long enough for folks to do the right thing and get their shot. I’m glad to see that Biden is doing whatever he can to fix that.