The U.S. government has announced a broad plan to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates in the U.S. as cases plateau at a high number, pressuring private employers to immunize their workforce, as well as mandating the shots for federal workers, contractors and employees of health-care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.
- The USA is reporting an average of 151,500 new cases per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, hovering around levels seen in late January. The USA is also reporting an average of about 1,500 Covid deaths per day, according to Hopkins’ data, in line with numbers seen in March when the U.S. was coming down from its winter surge.
The plan is intended to get more people vaccinated, allow schools to reopen safely, increase testing, improve care for patients and boost the economic recovery.
- Federal employees will be required to get a Covid vaccine, with no option for regular testing.
- The executive order will extend to contractors that work with the U.S. government, impacting a total of 2.1 million employees. Previously, all federal employees to get vaccinated or submit to a series of rigorous safety protocols.
- The Department of Labor will issue a rule that requires employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or testing, according to officials.
- Health-care facilities that get Medicare and Medicaid funding to have staff fully vaccinated.
Overall, the new vaccination requirements will cover about 100 million employees, affecting two-thirds of U.S. workers.
- As part of the multi-pronged plan to combat Covid, the US is increasing the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid by 50%. More than 800,000 doses were shipped in July and August.
- The Transportation Security Administration is also doubling fines for travelers who refuse to follow a federal mask mandate for air travel. Fines will soon start at $500 and go up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
- The USA additionally plans to call on all schools to set up regular testing when Covid is spreading in a community for students, faculty and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated, according to an administration official.
- The Department of Education will make additional funding available to help local school districts backfill salaries and other funding where it has been withheld by state leaders for implementing Covid safety measures.
- $2 billion will be put towards the production of 280 million rapid and at-home Covid tests using the Defense Production Act. The plan expands the USA’s free Covid testing program to 10,000 pharmacies nationwide and provides community health centers and foodbanks with 25 million free rapid tests to distribute.
- Private businesses will also distribute discounted tests: Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will start selling at-home Covid tests “at their costs for the next three months”. The discount will reportedly make the tests 35% cheaper for consumers.
Only just over 176 million Americans, or 53.3% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.