Jul 29, 2021
Joe Biden Announces Vaccine, Testing Mandate for Federal Workers Speech Transcript
President Joe Biden announced a mandate for federal workers requiring that they either get vaccinated or participate in regular COVID-19 testing. Read the transcript of his speech with COVID-19 updates here.
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President Biden: (00:00)
… [inaudible 00:00:00], like in my home state of Delaware, where I live in New Castle County, where I was yesterday in Pennsylvania, because people got vaccinated, they got vaccinated. They don’t need a mask when the vast majority of people got vaccinated.
President Biden: (00:17)
Now look, I want to talk about what’s really happening, what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and what we need to do this week and the months ahead. From the moment I was elected, I said I’d always give it to you straight from the shoulder, and we need some straight talk right now, because there’s a lot of fear and misinformation in the country, and we need to cut through it with facts, with science, with the truth.
President Biden: (00:46)
So what’s really happening today? After months and months of cases going down, we’re seeing a spike in COVID cases, they’re going up. Why? Because of this new form, this new variant called the Delta variant. This is a much different variant than the one we dealt with previously. It’s highly transmissible, and it’s causing a new wave of cases in those that are not vaccinated. Our experts tell me that cases will go up further before they start to come back down. But while cases are on the rise, we’re not likely to see, according to experts, a comparable rise in hospitalizations or deaths, in most areas of the country.
President Biden: (01:29)
So you have to ask yourself, “Why is that?” Because 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80% of the most vulnerable, our seniors. So there’s a challenge, as you knew there could be, but there’s also good news. We’ve spent the last six months preparing for this possibility. The vaccines are highly effective. We have enough vaccine for everyone to get vaccinated, and thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the hard work of the American people, we’ve administered over 325 million vaccination doses in the past six months. We have the tools to prevent this new wave of COVID from shutting down our businesses, our schools, our society, as we saw happen last year.
President Biden: (02:26)
I’ve said since the beginning that we will be guided by the science, so here’s what the science tells us. On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, announced this new mask recommendation in parts of the country where COVID cases are substantially higher, where people didn’t get vaccinated, which they define as 50 new cases for every 100,000 people in a week. The CDC recommends you wear a mask when you’re in public, and indoors, like work, or in a grocery store. That’s true for both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Why? Because even if you’ve been fully vaccinated and protected from severe illness from COVID-19, you could have the Delta variant in your system, and spread it to someone who isn’t vaccinated. We need to wear a mask to protect each other, and to stop the rapid spread of this virus, as we work to get more people vaccinated.
President Biden: (03:33)
And I hope all Americans who live in areas with substantial or high case rates will follow the mass guidance that’s being laid down by the CDC. I certainly will and I have, because this is one of those areas in Washington, and my decision and my direction, all federal personnel and visitors to federal buildings will have to do the same thing. As I’ve said from the beginning, a mask is not a political statement. It’s about protecting yourself and protecting others. Masking is one defense against the spread of COVID-19. Make no mistake, vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from COVID-19, the very best defense. You want to know how we put this virus behind us? Well, I’ll tell you how. We need to get more people vaccinated.
President Biden: (04:33)
Look, and it’s important to understand what vaccines do, and what they don’t do. Put simply, the vaccines are designed to save lives and prevent severe illness. They’re highly effective at both. 190 million Americans have had at least one shot. Of that group, about 90% are done now, and 10% are waiting for the second shot. To those folks who have one shot, but not the second, go get the second shot. Even if you’re overdue for the second shot, it’s not too late. Go get the second shot now. Now.
President Biden: (05:16)
The bottom line is if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from COVID-19, but I also know that many of you who are vaccinated are concerned about what’s called breakthrough cases. Yes, some fully vaccinated people will still test positive, and some will show some symptoms of COVID-19. That’s expected with almost every vaccine there is, for other diseases, but breakthrough cases remain rare, and almost all are mild cases. In fact, virtually all hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.
President Biden: (05:57)
I also know many of you are wondering if you need a booster shot to add another layer of protection. As of now, my medical advisors say the answer is no. No American needs a booster now, but if the science tells us there’s a need for boosters, then that’s something we’ll do. And we’ve purchased the supply, all the supply we need to be ready if that was called for.
President Biden: (06:23)
Folks, the truth is, as more people get vaccinated, we are better protected as a nation to continue reopening safely and responsibly. We are not fully out of the woods yet, because what is happening in America right now is a pandemic, a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Let me say that again, it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated. There are about 90 million Americans who are eligible to get the shot, but haven’t gotten it yet. As I just mentioned, nearly all of the cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 today are from unvaccinated people. Last month, a study showed that over 99% of COVID-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated, 99%.
President Biden: (07:14)
This is an American tragedy. People are dying, and will die, who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die. Read the news. You’ll see stories about unvaccinated patients at hospitals, as they’re lying in bed dying from COVID-19, they’re asking, “Doc, can I get the vaccine?” But the doctors have to say, “Sorry, it’s too late.” Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love dying, and saying, “If I just got vaccinated. If I just.” It’s heartbreaking, and it’s complicated even more because it’s preventable.
President Biden: (08:06)
Americans are divided between the majority of eligible people who are vaccinated, and those who are not. And I understand that many of you in the majority are frustrated with the consequences of the failure of the minority to get vaccinated, but I want you to know I’m going to continue to do everything I can to encourage the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. That includes addressing hesitancy and misinformation head on. For example, I know some of you who are unvaccinated Think the development of the vaccine was rushed, “Therefore, I’m not going to take a chance. As a result, I think it’s not safe because it was rushed.” I understand, but let me explain.
President Biden: (08:54)
Our top scientists at the National Institute of Health, the NIH, and across the country, got to work applying decades of research, decades of research. Let me repeat that, decades. [inaudible 00:09:08] already been done the research, to develop the COVID-19 vaccine when it hit. In the last six months, more than 325 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the United States, and billions of doses administered around the world. The vaccine was developed and authorized under a Republican administration, and has been distributed and administered under a Democratic administration. The vaccines are safe, highly effective. There’s nothing political about them. Look at all the people who took a shot at it. They later [inaudible 00:09:55] and have already been vaccinated. From the start, I have to compliment Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell…
President Biden: (10:03)
I have to compliment Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, he hadn’t made it political. He’s encouraged people to get vaccinated. He’s continuing to do so and the state’s in pretty good shape. Alabama Republican governor, Kay Ivey recently spoke out to encourage vaccination and even the commentators on facts who’ve been belittling this for a long time. Some haven’t, but many have, are arguing, get vaccinated. Look, this is not about red states and blue states. It’s literally about life and death. It’s about life and death. That’s what it’s about. And I know people talk about freedom, but I learned growing up, schooling, my parents, with freedom comes responsibility.
President Biden: (10:53)
Your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else. Unvaccinated people spread the virus. They get sick and fill up our hospitals. And that means if someone else has a heart attack or breaks a hip, there may not be a hospital bed for them. If you’re unvaccinated, you put your doctor and nurses at risk, the same frontline essential workers who put their lives on the line over the past year and have gone through hell. Again, with freedom comes responsibility. So please exercise responsible judgment, get vaccinated for yourself, for the people you love, for your country.
President Biden: (11:44)
I’m being literal when I say this, as I travel the world almost every day, a foreign leader calls me asking can I find his or her country more vaccines. Their people are desperate for vaccines. I’m doing everything to answer those calls. We’re sending millions of vaccines to people around the world. But folks, it’s an American blessing that we have vaccines for each and every American. We’ve made it our first and top priority to have available vaccines for every eligible American and that’s never going to change as long as I’m here.
President Biden: (12:20)
It’s a shame. It’s just a such a shame to squander that blessing. That’s why after six months of extraordinary work and effort, today I’m laying out additional steps we should be taking to deliver these life-saving vaccines to more Americans. First, we’re going to provide more incentives to encourage unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. That starts with paid leave to get the shot. We’re still hearing that people are unable to get time off from their employer to get vaccinated. Well, this is unacceptable. For some time now I’ve said you should be able to get the shot and still get paid. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the federal government is fully reimbursing any small or medium sized business that provides workers paid time off to get vaccinated.
President Biden: (13:14)
Employers, this costs you nothing. If you haven’t given employees paid time off, do it now please. Today I’m announcing we’re taking this a step further. The federal government will now reimburse those employers who give their staff time off not only to get themselves vaccinated, but also to get their family members vaccinated. That means employers can get reimbursed if they give parents time off with paid time, paid leave to take their kids or their own parents to get vaccinated. So I’m calling on all employees across the country to give paid time off to get the shot or to help a family member do so. I promise you, it’ll cost you, the employer nothing. You’ll be reimbursed.
President Biden: (14:09)
Secondly, I’m announcing that we’ll continue to work with states to encourage unvaccinated people to get vaccinated. In February, a grocery store chain, Kroger’s offered 100 dollars to their associates if they get vaccinated and it worked. Vaccination rates moved up from 50% to 75% among their employees. States like New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado, are offering similar incentive programs that have helped increase vaccination rates. So today I’m calling on all states and local governments to use funding they have received including from the American Rescue Plan to give $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated. I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks who’ve gotten vaccinated already, but here’s the deal. If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them. We all benefit when we get more people vaccinated. In addition to providing incentives to encourage vaccination, it’s time to impose requirements on key groups to make sure they’re vaccinated. Excuse me. Just this week, we took an important step to protect our veterans. Like many civilian hospital systems are doing, the Department of Veterans Affairs will now require COVID-19 vaccines for doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers who provide medical care for our veterans.
President Biden: (15:48)
We must do everything possible to protect our veterans from getting COVID. When they come to get medical care they so richly earn serving their country, we owe them. Next, since many vaccinations are required for active duty military today, I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccination the armed forces must get. Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19. I think this is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world many where vaccination rates are low and diseases prevalent.
President Biden: (16:37)
Next, every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to mask no matter where they work, test one or two times a week to see if they’ve acquired COVID, socially distance, and generally will not be allowed to travel for work. Likewise, today I’m directing my administration to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors. If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated. Because the Chamber of Commerce presenting tens of thousands of American businesses, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Round Table comprises of the largest and biggest corporations in America.
President Biden: (17:36)
They’re all applauding the actions that the federal government is taking and I urge them to follow suit. I also commend the National Football League, it has announced that if there are outbreaks among unvaccinated players and personnel, then the team risks forfeiting games. I’ll urge other sport leagues at every level to take every step they can. Every day, more businesses are implementing their own vaccine mandates and the Justice Department has made it clear that it is legal to require COVID-19 vaccines. We all want our lives to get back to normal and fully vaccinated workplaces will make that happen more quickly and more successfully. We all know that in our gut. With incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives.
President Biden: (18:34)
I also want to speak to families with children in school. We can and we must open schools this fall full time. It’s better for our children’s mental and emotional wellbeing and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely. Even in those areas where they have a higher vaccination, they have a higher rate of COVID. Through the American Rescue Plan, we’ve provided schools billions of dollars to implement safety measures, better ventilation, social distances and other measures.
President Biden: (19:16)
In March when vaccinations were scarce, I prioritized teachers and school workers by utilizing our Federal Pharmacy Program. Almost 90% of educators and school staff are now vaccinated. Additionally, the CDC has provided clear guidance on how all schools can safely protect the kids and bring them back to the classroom, every student wear a mask. It’s that simple. So we’ve funded safety measures in schools, we’ve vaccinated teachers and staff and we can mask up our kids for further protection. But once again, there’s one more thing we need to do, get more adolescents-
President Biden: (20:02)
Thing we need to do, get more adolescents, ages 12 and up vaccinated, now that they’ve been cleared. In the past week, good news, we’ve seen the average number of 12 to 17 year olds getting vaccinated increase 22% per day. Today I’m asking you so school districts to host one last pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks for kids ages 12 and up. We’re directing the federal pharmacy program to help make that happen. Parents, get your children vaccinated. You do it for so many other things right now. For kids under 12, if one of the vaccines are deemed safe for them, we’ll be prepared to get the vaccines administered as quickly and as safely as possible.
President Biden: (20:53)
And as we work to vaccinate more Americans were prepared for outbreaks in areas where there are un-vaccinated people. My administration has made it clear to every governor, that more federal resources available to them. This included the deployment of surge teams, composed of experts from the CDC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. We’re going to continue to provide states with more than testing, treatments, protective equipment, personnel, mobile vaccination clinics to stem the surge of the virus among un-vaccinated. Pictures of hospitals in several states overloaded with patients is unnecessary, avoidable and tragic. We’ll help any health system overloaded and unable to cope with a spike in cases. We’re ready to do that.
President Biden: (21:51)
Let me close with this. If you’re at home and vaccinated, but anxious or even angry, or if you’re at home and un-vaccinated, unbothered and unconvinced let’s step back and see where we are. Just remember how we’ve emerged from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer, but really remember just how dark that winter was. Over 3,600 Americans were dying each and every day. Now, even with the surge among the un-vaccinated, we’re down to that 300 Americans a day, significant. Millions of people were out of work, out of homes, out of hope and going hungry. Remember those long lines, people in their automobiles waiting for a box of food to be put in their trunk.
President Biden: (22:49)
Experts and pundents said we couldn’t get the vaccines and even if we could get the vaccines we couldn’t get in people’s arms, couldn’t get them vaccinated. They predicted our economy would collapse. Remember how we stayed focused and how we went to work. In six months, we got 164 million Americans fully vaccinated because we vaccinated so many people, put in place so many safety measures and got economic health that businesses and people most in need, our economy is recovering. More than 3 million Americans are back to work since I was sworn in. Faster job growth than any previous administration, any. We’re experiencing the fastest economic growth in nearly four decades. The best in the world as of now. In fact, today’s GDP numbers show that the first half of the year our economy grew faster than any point in nearly 14 years. Our economy grew more in six months than most Wall Street forecasters expected for the entire year before we implemented our plan. And just yesterday, we announced the bi-partisan infrastructure deal that’s going to continue this momentum over the long-term by making the most significant investment to rebuild America in nearly a century.
President Biden: (24:18)
We still have to face many challenges. Still have a lot of work to do as we readjust to post pandemic economy. We have the right plan, we’re coming back. We just have to stay ahead of this virus. I know this is hard to hear, I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s exhausting to think we’re still in this fight. I know, I hope this would be a simple straightforward line without problems or new challenges, but that isn’t real life. We’re coming out of the worst public health crisis in 100 years, worst economic crisis since the great depression. As I told you, before I carry a card in my pocket, I hope I have it with me, I carry card in my pocket with a number of Americans dead from COVID-19. As of the day, this morning, the total deaths in the United States are 609,441. Granted the death rate per day is way down, it’s down to 400 a day. That’s more death then World War I, World Ware II, Vietnam, 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
President Biden: (25:46)
This is as tough as it gets. We’re Americans. We get knocked down we get back up. That’s who we are. That’s what we do. That’s why there’s no nation on earth like us. We’re prepared like never before, we have the tools to save lives, to keep our economy growing and growing and going. After the past six months following the science, we know we can dramatically lower the cases in this country. We can do this. We brought our economy back to life and we kept it going. We know we can send our kids back to school. We know we can beat this virus, we can do this. We all just have to do our part.
President Biden: (26:41)
My fellow Americans, this nation has never failed. We have come together as the United States of America. So I say to all those un-vaccinated, please, please get vaccinated. And the rest of America, this is no time to be despondent or let our guard down, we just need to finish the job with science, with facts, with the truth. Together as Americans, we’re going to be able to beat this. May God bless you all. May God protect our troops. Thank you. [crosstalk 00:27:26]
Speaker 1: (27:28)
How long do you think it might be necessary to wear masks and at what point do you think people might have to have a booster shot?
President Biden: (27:36)
I said in my talk, the booster shot is not needed now and it’s possible that it will be needed later, I don’t know. Science hasn’t dictated that yet. And the first part of your question.
Speaker 1: (27:49)
How long do you think people might have to wear a mask again?
President Biden: (27:52)
Well, if you notice a lot of places people don’t have to wear mask. Let’s get that straight. The places where people have gotten vaccinated, where we have a high vaccination rate, people do not have to wear a mask at all.Ssome of you were with me yesterday when I was up in the Lehigh Valley, didn’t have to wear a mask there. Don’t have to mask if you come home to Delaware with me, I know you love doing that. But you don’t have to wear a mask. The places people are probably going to have to wear a mask in those communities where the high rate of un-vaccinated stays high and they don’t move. They don’t move to getting vaccinated. But I think you’re going to find the patience and businesses and the patience of a lot of other people running thin because the fact is, if you had high vaccination rates we wouldn’t be in this spot right now. Yes.
Speaker 2: (28:50)
Mr. President will this set up an American workplace for federal workers and private sector that really is the vaccinated versus the un-vaccinated? And is that a pressure you’re trying to harness now?
President Biden: (29:04)
Look, what I’m trying to do is keep people safe. I mean this sincerely. So, if in fact you’re un-vaccinated, you present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom you work. Because it was pointed out, I was asked the question about why would people who have already been vaccinated get it. Well, you got anywhere from 2 to 3% on average, the last study done that can still get COVID. They don’t get very sick, they don’t get hospitalized, it’s not serious, but they can catch it. And the concern is they may be able to pass it on. And so that’s all being studied right now. But it’s important thing is if people are vaccinated, the transmission rate drops through the floor and that’s all we’re trying to do. Yes. [crosstalk 00:30:03].
Speaker 3: (30:02)
Mr. President, thank you.
President Biden: (30:03)
That’s all we’re trying to do. Yes.
Speaker 4: (30:03)
Mr. President, thank you. Why not push for vaccine mandates in states, private companies, schools? Do you want to see those entities pass vaccine mandates?
President Biden: (30:13)
Well, I’d like to see them continue to move in that direction, and that’s why I point it out. I had asked the Justice Department to determine whether they’re able to do that legally, and they can. Local communities can do that. Local businesses can do that. It’s still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don’t know that yet.
Speaker 5: (30:35)
Mr. President, you said earlier this week that we are not headed back towards lockdowns, but if the science is evolving, how can you be so confident in that? We heard you saying weeks ago that the virus … But Dr. Fauci has also indicated that we are headed in the wrong direction.
President Biden: (30:53)
Well, you’re literally correct on everything you said, but it doesn’t come to the conclusion you’re implying. It is clear that if everybody’s vaccinated, the existing vaccines work to prevent death, serious illness, hospitalization. Okay? So if tomorrow I can wave a wand and every American was vaccinated, then in fact we’d be out of the woods. Now, can something else happen a year from now? Can there be a different virus? Can there be something? It’s possible, but I’m talking about COVID and the existing variants that have come forward so far. So it’s a simple proposition. If you’re vaccinated, you find yourself in a situation where you are highly unlikely, even if you somehow get the virus, a very small percentage do, that you are not going to be hospitalized. You’re not going to be on a ventilator. You’re not going to be sick. But you could be in a position to possibly spread it to someone who wasn’t if you have it in you. Yes.
Speaker 6: (32:03)
Mr. President, thank you. I wanted to ask why not require that the people show proof that they’re vaccinated? Also, with the 4 million, how much of an impact do you think this will have? Do you have a projection?
President Biden: (32:18)
A projection on what?
Speaker 6: (32:23)
How many people will get vaccinated by putting in this system.
President Biden: (32:26)
No, I’m not going to get in the business of projecting exactly how many people are likely. All I know is that we go through these periods, and then we run up against a wall. Then something happens where people realize, “Oh my Lord. This is really a problem,” and they begin to see things. Look, the fact that a lot of your friends are now saying, “Get vaccinated,” who before were saying, “This is not a problem. This is all a Democratic thing,” and with a small D and a capital D. I mean, there’s a lot changing. People are becoming aware. The more aware they become, then we have these surges of people going out and getting vaccinated. It just keeps building.
Speaker 6: (33:07)
I’m sorry, sir. What about requiring proof, sir?
President Biden: (33:11)
Well, there’s two ways to do it, and I think you’re going to see some institutions doing that. You’re going to fly abroad, you’re going to have to have proof. You’re not just going to be able to say, “I got tested.” You’ve got to provide truth. My guess is if we don’t start to make more progress, a lot of businesses and a lot of enterprises are going to require proof for you to be able to participate. [crosstalk 00:33:40] in the back, and then I’m going to take off shortly here.
Speaker 7: (33:46)
What sort of actions are you going to take to encourage private business to follow this type of model, to either require vaccines or require testing or other preventative procedures?
President Biden: (33:57)
I just did. I’m going to keep at it. I’m going to keep talking about it around the country.
Speaker 7: (34:02)
Are you going to reach out to credit business, meet with them, try and actively encourage them to follow this model?
President Biden: (34:09)
Well, I have. That’s why we have folks from the Chamber of Commerce to the manufacturers, et cetera. So am I going to call a meeting of every business in the country to come to Washington or go on … I have made the case repeatedly I doubt whether there’s a single solitary business that doesn’t understand that I think it’s smart for them to require testing, and if you can’t demonstrate, you can’t prove you’ve been vaccinated, you have to be tested.
Speaker 8: (34:41)
Secretary Austin said he was already considering mandating the vaccine after it was fully approved. Would you like to see the mandate go into effect before full approval, and do you think he’s open to that?
President Biden: (35:01)
I know he’s open to it, and the question is when is the right time to get the most bang for the buck when you do it? A lot of this is timing. So I think it’s going to happen. But look, the one thing that you all are politely and appropriately referencing is that it’s still a temporary approval. So when does the final approval come? It usually takes a lot of work to get there. I made a commitment I would not tell anyone in the Justice Department who they should prosecute and I would not tell the health industry, excuse me, the government health entities what they should say and do. But my expectation is they’re going to reach that conclusion in the early fall. Thank you, [crosstalk 00:35:51].
Speaker 9: (35:57)
Mr. President, you said if you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. It seems-
President Biden: (36:10)
No, I didn’t say … I said if you’re fully vaccinated in an area where you do not have [inaudible 00:36:10].
Speaker 9: (36:10)
In May, you made it sound like the vaccine was the ticket to losing the masks forever.
President Biden: (36:15)
That is true at the time, because I thought there were people who were going to understand that getting vaccinated made a gigantic difference. What happened was the new variant came along. They didn’t get vaccinated. It was spread more rapidly, and more people were getting sick. That’s [crosstalk 00:36:36].
Speaker 10: (36:40)
How is the First Lady, sir?
President Biden: (36:52)
You’re going to find out in a minute. [crosstalk 00:36:53].