President Biden unveils new plan to combat COVID-19

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WASHINGTON — President Biden today unveiled an new six-part plan to combat COVID-19 as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads and some 80 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” he said in a speech from the White House, making clear that he blamed the unvaccinated for the current surge in the U.S. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Here are some of the details of the plan and who it affects:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (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 COVID-19 test once a week.

This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses, the White House said.

OSHA will also develop a rule requiring employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they suffer from vaccination side effects.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals, dialysis centers, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies.

This requirement will impact over 17 million healthcare workers at hospitals and other facilities that take these patients.

President Biden said he will use his authority under the Defense Production Act to procure nearly 280 million rapid point-of-care and over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests, at a cost of $2 billion.

He said Walmart, Amazon.com and Kroger will sell those tests at-cost for the next three months, or up to 35% less, starting by the end of this week. Medicaid will cover at-home tests at no costs for beneficiaries.

The Department of Health and Human Services will also expand its free COVID-19 testing program to cover 10,000 pharmacies across the country.

The new measures also include a preparation for offering booster shots to recipients of the two-dose mRNA vaccines; the Pfizer vaccine, in particular, appears not to be as effective against Delta. Booster shots are nevertheless contingent on approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which has not yet been granted.

“As soon as they are authorized, those eligible will be able to get a booster right away,” Biden said, though he provided few details about the timing. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had previously said that boosters would begin to be administered on Sept. 20, but it is not clear that Biden will be able to keep to that timeline.



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