By Angelina Jahn
Thursday, Sept. 9, President Biden held a live video conference announcing that he is now requiring that all employers with 100 or more workers require all employees to be vaccinated, or participate in weekly COVID-19 tests that produce negative results.
This change will impact Grand Rapids College, but college leaders are awaiting details of the new federal COVID-19 directives.
“College leaders are reviewing the President’s announcement,” said GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray.
In the meantime, Murray urged the GRCC community to take precautions.
“We strongly encourage students, employees and community members to be vaccinated, knowing the vaccines are an effective tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent anyone’s education from being disrupted,” Murray said. “Nearly 30 people have been vaccinated at GRCC vaccination clinics this month, and another clinic is scheduled for Sept. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the GRCC Lakeshore Campus. The event is open to the public.”
The Department of Labor will now be requiring employers to give their workers paid time off to receive the vaccine. Biden will additionally be requiring all executive branch federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated.
This announcement was the first step of Biden’s six-step COVID-19 response plan, which was formulated in response to the nearly 80 million Americans choosing to remain unvaccinated.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden told the nation during his Thursday address.
Step two focuses on keeping those vaccinated safe, resulting in the rollout of booster shots to provide as much protection as possible for vaccinated individuals. Once authorized, those eligible (aged 12 and up) will be able to receive the booster shot immediately.
Those 12 and under are the focus of step three: keeping the children safe. There is currently no set date for when children under 12 will be able to receive the vaccine, so they’re heavily reliant on being surrounded by vaccinated people. Because of this, vaccines are now required for all people who work for the nation’s Head Start programs that promote school readiness among infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from low-income families. Biden is also asking that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated.
“If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said.
COVID-19 tests will soon be more accessible and convenient, due to step four, which calls for an increase in masking and rapid testing. This not only includes free administered tests, which will be expanding to over 10,000 pharmacies across the country, but take home tests as well.Take home tests will now be sold at cost at Walmart, Amazon and Kroger for the next three months beginning next week.
Around three million rapid tests will also be available at community health centers, food banks and schools, making them accessible to all Americans regardless of income.
This step has also resulted in the Transportation Security Administration doubling the fine for those traveling who refuse to wear a mask, from $250 to $500.
Step five takes into consideration the negative impact that the pandemic has had on small businesses. Biden is expanding the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs, allowing small businesses to borrow up to $2 million, a $1.5 million increase from the previous $500,000. The money can be used by small business owners to hire and retain employees, pay debt that has accumulated since the start of the pandemic and purchase inventory. These loans will be low interest and will require no repayment for two years.
The final step focuses on areas in the country that are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, which will be aided by the doubling of military health teams deployed across the United States to help in hospitals.
Biden concluded his address by stating, “We’ve made so much progress during the past seven months of this pandemic. The recent increases in vaccinations in August already are having an impact in some states, where case counts are dropping in recent days. Even so, we remain at a critical moment, at a critical time. We have the tools, now we just need to finish the job. With truth, with science, with confidence, and together as one nation.”