ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Thursday said more U.S. businesses should obligate workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, calling the move vital to ending the pandemic and sustaining the economy.
“Today I’m calling on more employers to act,” Biden said.
“My message is: Require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we’re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools.”
Biden last month ordered all federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated, and for private employers with 100 or more workers to require staff to be vaccinated by Dec. 8, or get tested for the coronavirus weekly. That order covers 100 million people, about two-thirds of the workforce.
The president intensified the call on Thursday on a visit to the construction site of a future Microsoft Corp data center near Chicago. The construction firm, Clayco, said it plans to implement immunization or testing requirements for all employees.
Biden highlighted other vaccination success stories, including a move by Chicago-based United Airlines to set an October deadline for all employees to be fully vaccinated, the first U.S. carrier to do so.
Biden praised other airlines and businesses that followed suit, including entertainment company Walt Disney Co, drugstore operator Walgreens Boots Alliance and Microsoft.
Immunization requirements have broad public support, and Wall Street economists agree higher vaccination rates will stoke economic growth and add jobs, the Democratic president said.
Biden’s workplace vaccine order spurred pushback from high profile Republican governors and resistant Americans. Biden said he was initially reluctant to order vaccinations.
“We have to beat this thing. So, while I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements (that) everyone get vaccinated, where I had the authority to do that,” he said.
Biden’s mandate announcement in September came at a breaking-point moment as his administration struggled to control the pandemic, which has killed more than 700,000 Americans, as a large swath of the nation’s population refused to accept free vaccinations that have been available for months.
A surge of hospitalizations and deaths caused by the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has threatened not just the country but a president who ran on promises to get control of the pandemic. Biden’s approval ratings have sagged since he said in July the United States was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that cases and hospitalizations have edged down on average over the last seven days, but cautioned that deaths – a lagging indicator – are still at 1,400 per day, primarily among the unvaccinated.