The Joe Biden administration is putting in place increasingly firm executive orders to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. On Thursday, the president announced a six-point agenda to reduce morbidity and improve treatment.
The most radical decision is the requirement that all federal employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19. Vaccination mandates have been in effect for a few months now, but those who didn’t want to take the shot have so far been able to opt for regular testing. No such exception is currently planned.
Biden also announced an executive order forcing mandatory vaccinations on employees of private companies that perform contracts for the government. He also repeated his promise to provide Americans with additional, third doses of the vaccine to strengthen their resistance to the virus, which is weakening with time. He also pledged to expand free testing opportunities, called for people to wear masks and announced further government aid to private companies facing difficulties as the disease spreads.
Delta Is Spreading in the US
After the pandemic waned from May to July, the delta variant, which is more infectious than previous variants, spread in the U.S. during the summer. As a result, the number of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths has steadily increased since July. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of cases has risen to 152,000 per day. Delta is generally less frequently fatal than previous strains, but the high number of cases has led to renewed strain on hospitals and medical staff. So far, 649,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Nearly 100,000 people remain hospitalized. More than 39 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. since the pandemic began last February.
The vast majority of new infections are among the unvaccinated. Only 53% of Americans are fully (doubly) vaccinated, precluding the achievement of what is known as herd immunity, which experts say would allow the pandemic to gradually expire. The government, many private organizations and celebrities have been advocating vaccination for months. The appeals have been met with opposition from anti-vaccinators, among whom Donald Trump’s supporters are particularly numerous. When the former president called for vaccinations at one of his rallies, he was met with booing.
More and More Infected Children
Children are particularly often infected with the delta variant. The vast majority of them survive the disease without serious symptoms, but since last August, 55,000 sick children have been hospitalized. Deaths are rare, but at least 520 of the youngest have already died from COVID-19, according to CDC data. The epidemic in this age category poses a problem especially now, with the start of the school year, because most schools announced a return to normal schooling after a period of remote teaching.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of children are not vaccinated. A significant number of parents, especially in the South, believe that a mild course of illness does not justify the need for injections. Attempts at mandatory mass vaccinations in some schools have been met with protests; demonstrators have appeared in front of facilities with banners comparing the vaccination requirement to terror in totalitarian states.
The protesting parents were supported by Republican governors, including incumbents Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, and some Republican politicians in Congress. DeSantis has been sued by supporters of mass vaccinations and has lost the case several times. The arena for similar litigation exists in many states, especially in America’s conservative West and South. Almost everywhere, however, more people are again wearing masks on public transportation, in stores and restaurants than as recently as May-June.
Support for Biden Is Declining
The controversy was sparked by Biden’s earlier announcement that a “booster shot,” an additional booster dose of the vaccine, would be available within six months after the second dose. The U.S. administration was criticized by the World Health Organization, which states that as many people as possible in poor countries should be vaccinated before a third shot is offered to Americans.
Perhaps as a result of this criticism, the U.S. government, which had announced that the third dose would be available as of Sept. 20, is now reporting that the matter needs to be studied more closely, so it is not known at this time when such vaccinations will begin.
The renewed intensity of the pandemic has contributed to Biden’s waning approval ratings. While from the beginning of the president’s term until June, 62% of Americans applauded his actions to combat COVID-19, 10% fewer citizens now view them positively.
Overall approval of Biden’s presidency has also declined, largely as a result of the poorly rated way in which troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan. The persistence of the pandemic is exacerbating his troubles, as the first negative economic effect of the increased incidence of the disease — a slowdown in job growth — is being seen already. Meanwhile, more bills providing — among other things — aid for COVID-19 victims, including businesses affected by the pandemic, are stalled in Congress.