Biden ups ante on vaccine mandates as DOD declares COVID-19 national security threat

The chilling push to ensure all Americans are vaccinated amid a surge of the delta variance of COVID-19 hit warp speed Thursday as President Joe Biden inched ever closer to a federal mandate.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden offered what he called “straight talk” to the American people, announcing a series of tough new pandemic measures designed to get more people to take the experimental vaccine that’s being administered via an emergency use authorization, having yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is an American tragedy. People are dying, and will die, who don’t have to die,” Biden said. “Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love dying, and saying, ‘If I just got vaccinated.’ It’s heartbreaking, and it’s complicated even more because it’s preventable.”

Biden called on state and local officials to use American Rescue Plan funding to offer residents $100 cash payments as an incentive to get vaccinated, and will now require 2 million-plus federal employees and onsite contractors to prove that they have been vaccinated. Those who cannot must submit to strict requirements, to include weekly or twice weekly testing, wear masks on the job and practice social distancing.

(Video: NBC News)

In addition, the president directed the Department of Defense to begin the process of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for members of the military.

On that note, to grease the skids for a looming mandate, the Pentagon announced on Thursday that COVID-19 is a threat to national security

A statement released by Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Jamal Brown said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will “begin consulting our medical professionals, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to determine how and when to make recommendations to the President with respect to adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the full list of requirements for military personnel.”

“COVID-19 remains a significant and evolving threat to our nation’s security,” the release said. “The rise of the Delta variant and the speed with which it transmits make these additional protective efforts all the more vital to protecting our force and the nation we defend.”

Brown said all military and civilian Defense personnel will be asked to attest to their vaccination status, and those who are “unable or unwilling to do that will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions.”

According to reports, 70% of all military personnel have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and Biden said Thursday there are 90 million Americans overall who have yet to get the vaccine.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday evening and cited a large study from Public Health England to suggest that the delta variant is not as deadly as the administration suggests.

“The delta variant is more transmissible but far less deadly than the virus from last year,” Paul said.

(Video: Fox News)

Biden’s actions followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing new mask recommendations this week, asking people in most areas of the country to wear masks indoors when out in public, even if they’ve been vaccinated.

Declaring that masks are “not a political statement, the president said, “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.”

And make no mistake, a veiled threat of another shutdown lurked in his remarks.

“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,” Biden said.

(Video: CNN)

The president reinforced a building narrative of there being two classes in America, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

“Americans are divided between the majority of eligible people who are vaccinated, and those who are not,” he said. “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.”

The American Postal Workers Union released a statement on Wednesday opposing a vaccine mandate, saying such matters must be negotiated.

“Maintaining the health and safety of our members is of paramount importance,” the release stated. “While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent.”

“Issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in the workplace must be negotiated with the APWU. At this time the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to U.S. postal workers.”

Tom Tillison

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