(CNN) – President Joe Biden, facing a fall in which the coronavirus will still generate chaos in the health and economy of the nation, will push for new vaccination mandates and testing programs as part of a new approach to ending the pandemic.
The six-point plan that Biden will unveil this Thursday afternoon is still being refined by the president and members of his public health team. On Wednesday afternoon, Biden received a briefing from his COVID-19 response team in the Oval Office on the new planned measures.
But the details of his plan emerged a day before the speech. Officials said Biden would give new impetus to mandatory vaccinations, including building on existing vaccination requirements for federal workers, and would pressure private companies to force their employees to get vaccinated.
It also plans to take steps to expand access to tests and ensure students are protected in classrooms, officials said.
“We have always said that we would build on what we have announced to date,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, citing existing mandates for US military service members and federal health workers. “We also believe that the private sector has a role here.”
Officials said they hope the new approach will provide Americans with a clearer view of how the pandemic will end after 18 months of living restricted by COVID-19. The White House has seen the president’s approval ratings for COVID-19 drop and believes that part of the problem is the setback that occurred this summer: a spike in cases caused masks to be reused and continued. working from home.
A ABC News / The Washington Post poll conducted in late August revealed that 52% of respondents approve of how Biden is handling the pandemic, a 10-point drop from June. However, there are more who approve of his management of the covid than those who disapprove.
At the same time, Biden’s overall approval has fallen into negative territory amid a chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and a slow economic recovery. The president’s advisers consider that the fight against the pandemic is the most important issue of his presidency and the one that will determine his political destiny.
Part of the goal of Thursday’s speech is to describe the way forward to emerge from the pandemic, which officials believe has been overshadowed by the surge driven by the delta variant. The strategy he was preparing to unveil is aimed at combating the spread of the highly contagious variant, with particular emphasis on the schools and private sector companies, according to people familiar with the matter.
As American students return to classrooms, battles over mask use and vaccination requirements for older children have erupted in school districts across the country. Health authorities say they await authorization of vaccines for children under 12 years of age in the coming months, but parents have been frustrated by the pace at which the process is unfolding.
Biden has identified schools as a key focus area, given the broader effect that the presence of children in classrooms has on the economy, especially for women.
The president also plans to address vaccination requirements for public sector employees. It has already required federal workers to prove they are vaccinated or are subject to strict mitigation requirements, and some sectors of the government, including the military and healthcare workers, have vaccination requirements.
The president has also ordered all nursing homes that require their staff to be vaccinated against covid-19 in order to continue receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid.
The elaboration of the next steps was led by Biden’s coronavirus team. There are still certain limitations on what the administration can do, and the White House continues to believe that the federal government cannot order a broad vaccination mandate for the American public.
“We have seen that there are a number of ways” to increase vaccination, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. “One of them is that private sector companies order, in different capacities, that their employees get vaccinated, or that certain school districts do it. Another is, without a doubt, the fear of the delta variant. And we have to keep taking more steps to make sure school districts are prepared and communities across the country are prepared. “
Although Biden has encouraged companies to require vaccinations for their employees, officials said they believe there are more things the private sector can do to encourage people to get vaccinated. That includes requiring proof of vaccination in restaurants, bars, and other places. Administration officials have been working in recent weeks to determine ways the government could make it easier for companies to implement those requirements.
The White House has repeatedly said that there will be no mandatory vaccine passport at the federal level, but it has been pushing for other ways to increase vaccination rates.
At the same time, the administration is preparing to roll out the booster vaccines for fully vaccinated Americans, although when they will begin to be implemented is not yet clear.
The Biden administration had initially said last month that the booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine would be available to adults on September 20. However, senior health officials have warned the White House that they may need more time to review all the necessary data before they can recommend booster shots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to meet on September 17 to discuss booster vaccines against Covid-19.