President Joe Biden is expected to unveil a new approach to containing the coronavirus pandemic at an event planned for 5 p.m. Eastern Thursday, and he intends to mandate vaccination for all federal employees, according to a report.
Biden will announce the move which will not have testing options to allow workers to opt out, according to the Washington Post, which cited a person familiar with the plans. That would be the federal government’s strongest action so far and would effect about 2.1 million workers as the White House moves to stop the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.
Delta’s rapid spread across the nation has upended some of the progress made in spring when mass vaccination first began and has cases rising in all 50 states to levels last seen in winter.
The U.S. is currently averaging more than 150,000 new cases a day, according to a New York Times tracker, and more than 1,500 deaths, the most since March.
There are more than 100,000 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, and some states are being overwhelmed. Florida is currently recording more deaths every day than any previous point in the outbreak, although case numbers are coming down.
Against this background, Biden is expected to announce a “six-pronged strategy” to address the pandemic, with press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters the approach will involve both the public and private sectors.
With Americans’ health and the U.S. economy continuing to be severely impacted, Biden will push for vaccine mandates and testing programs as part of his revamped approach, CNN reported Wednesday. Biden is also expected to call for a global summit to be held during the U.N. General Assembly later this month.
The president will seek to boost vaccine supply to the developing world at the summit, according to the Post, a move that will be welcomed by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who on Wednesday reiterated his plea for wealthier countries to hold off on booster vaccine doses for now until the rest of the world has caught up on first doses, as the Associated Press reported.
Tedros said at a briefing he was “appalled” by comments from a top association of pharmaceutical manufacturers that vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots for people in well-supplied countries and first jabs in poorer countries that face shortages. He said that’s already been the case.
“I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” he said. “Because manufacturers have prioritized or been legally obliged to fulfill bilateral deals with rich countries willing to pay top dollar, low income countries have been deprived of the tools to protect their people.”
Biden’s more pressing need is to convince millions of unvaccinated Americans to get their first shots, with just 53.3% of the overall population fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker. Some 62.7% of the overall population has received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines developed by Pfizer
and German partner BioNTech
Current cases, hospitalizations and deaths are almost entirely unvaccinated people, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, has describing the deaths as preventable.
Children and teens are now increasingly being infected and hospitalized, just as they are returning to school in person, putting further pressure on overburdened healthcare systems. Children below the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.
In California, LA County is set to become the first in the U.S. to require that students aged 12 and older be vaccinated to attend school in person, the New York Times reported. The school district Board of Education is due to meet later Thursday to vote on the matter. The LA Unified School District is the second biggest in the U.S. with more than 600,000 students.
Elsewhere, the U.K.’s medicines regulator has given authorization for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to be used as booster shots for emergency use, the Guardian reported. The regulator did not specify which patient groups should be included.
Japan is extending emergency COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals being overwhelmed, Reuters reported. About half of the population has now been fully vaccinated in Japan.
Major U.S. airlines issued revenue warnings early Thursday, after a combination of the delta variant spread and recent hurricanes derailed the travel recovery. United Airlines
all said revenue was hurt by a slowdown in bookings and elevated cancellations during the recent Labor Day holiday weekend.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 climbed above 222.6 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose above 4.59 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 40.5 million cases and 652,706 deaths.
India has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 441,749 and is third by cases at 33.1 million, the JHU data shows.
Brazil has second highest death toll at 584,421 and has 20.9 million cases.
In Europe, Russia has 186,999 deaths, followed by the U.K. with 133,999.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 107,307 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.
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