WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant of the coronavirus that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said as he criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated.
The Biden administration announced that all employers with 100+ employees must either mandate vaccines or test weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans.
The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation, an administration official said. The White House did not immediately say when it would take effect, but said workers would have sufficient time to get vaccinated.
The rule would also require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination.
Roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also signing an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
The overall core components of the plan include vaccinating the unvaccinated, protecting the vaccinated, keeping schools open, increasing testing and masking, promoting economic recovery, improving care for those with COVID-19.
You can read more information about his plan here.
“We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” Biden said of the current state of the pandemic.
In addition to the vaccination requirements, Biden moved to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or to maintain face covering requirements on federal property in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Biden announced that the federal government will work to increase the supply of virus tests, and that the White House has secured concessions from retailers including Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger to sell at-home testing kits at cost beginning this week.
The administration was also sending additional federal support to assist schools in safely operating, including additional funding for testing. Biden has encouraged COVID-19 vaccine requirements in settings like schools, workplaces and university campuses.
Los Angeles public schools followed that encouragement by mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all students 12 and older. It was already required for all staff members.
Separately, the Department of Health and Human Services will require vaccinations in Head Start Programs, as well as schools run by the Department of Defense and Bureau of Indian Education, affecting about 300,000 employees.
Biden will also call for large entertainment venues and arenas to require vaccinations or proof of a negative test for entry.
One area of Biden’s proposed plan that has already received scrutiny is his call for “easy access to booster shots.”
The Biden administration has said booster shots will be available by Sept. 20, but federal regulators have not confirmed if they will meet that deadline due to questions about the data related to a third shot.
The renewed focus on vaccine mandates and additional shots comes as the U.S. continues seeing case rates rise with the delta and mu variants.
The U.S. death toll stands at more than 650,000, with one major forecast model projecting it will top 750,000 by Dec. 1.
Approximately 63% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 53% are fully vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Vaccination rates have been increasing over the last few weeks since case rates began increasing again, but there are concerns that the U.S. will not have a significant enough percentage of the population vaccinated without mandates.
Mandates are already in place for federal employees, the military, multiple large private businesses and municipal offices.
Since United Airlines announced its mandate, more than half of the unvaccinated employees have received their shot. The remaining workers will risk termination or unpaid leave until they get a vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.