White House officials are hinting that mandatory COVID vaccines could be in store for those who want to fly domestically as President Joe Biden’s administration cracks down on the 80 million Americans who remain unvaccinated.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not rule out mandatory vaccines for domestic air travel when she was asked about it at Friday’s press briefing.
‘We are always looking at more we can do to protect and save lives,’ she said. ‘Obviously [President Biden] made a significant and bold announcement yesterday so I have anything to preview predict or preview for you but we’ll continue to look for ways to save more lives.’
Additionally, at Friday’s COVID response team briefing, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, didn’t rule out requiring vaccines for domestic flights.
‘We’re not taking any measures off the table,’ he said.
Already the TSA is doubling fines for people who refuse to mask on planes. The new range of penalties, which take effect Friday, September 10, 2021, will be $500-$1000 for first offenders and $1000-$3000 for second offenders, the Department of Homeland Security announced.
White House officials are hinting that mandatory COVID vaccines could be in store for those who want to fly domestically; White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not rule it out at Friday’s press briefing
And Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia announced new legislation Friday that would require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel for a domestic flight or Amtrak trip.
Beyer represents northern Virginia, which has access to two major airports – Reagan National and Dulles – and is close to Union Station, the major Amtrak hub in Washington D.C.
‘Requiring airport and Amtrak travelers and employees to provide a proof of COVID vaccine or negative test is just common sense,’ Beyer said in a statement. ‘These are easy steps we can take to make travel safer, as companies like United have already demonstrated with responsible policy changes. Americans want a return to normal that includes traveling for business or pleasure, and Congress can help make people comfortable traveling again by putting basic requirements in place that prevent the spread of COVID.’
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer proposed a bill would require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel for domestic flight or Amtrak trip – above passengers board an Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington D.C.
At Friday’s COVID response team briefing, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, didn’t rule out requiring vaccines for domestic flights
Rep. Beyer represents northern Virginia, which has access to two major airports – Reagan National and Dulles – and is close to Union Station in D.C.
Beyer’s proposal comes after President Biden announced sweeping new mandates to increase the vaccination rate, including requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated and for businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly tests.
Biden on Thursday announced an aggressive new plan to get 100 million employees across the federal government and private sector vaccinated against COVID as the case rate continues to rise due to the Delta variant.
To reach his goal, Biden will use the sweeping power of the federal government, ordering companies to vaccinate workers or face fines of up to thousands of dollars. If the administration hits its 100 million mark that means two-thirds of the country’s workforce would be vaccinated.
The Labor Department issued an emergency, temporary order to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure every worker is either fully vaccinated or gets tested at least once a week.
The order covers over 80 million employees and it will require employers with 100 or more employees to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated.
Any business that violates the new rule will face substantial fines, up to $14,000.
He also required all workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement to get vaccinated, which will apply to 17 million healthcare workers.
That is in addition to his executive order requiring all federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated.
A senior administration official described it as an ‘aggressive, comprehensive’ plan to fight COVID as part of their mission to ‘vaccinate the unvaccinated.’ The official estimated nearly 80 million Americans are eligible to receive a shot but have not.
Additionally, the roughly 300,000 educators in headstart programs will be required to be vaccinated.
‘It’s simple – if you want to work for the federal government, you must be vaccinated. If you want to do business with the government, you must vaccinate your workforce,’ the senior administration official said on a briefing call with reporters previewing the president’s remarks.
The Biden administration is pushing for more Americans to get their COVID shot
President Joe Biden will announce an aggressive new plan to get 100 million employees across the federal government and private sector vaccinated
Biden also called on governors to require vaccinations for all school teachers and staff.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick DeSantis has threatened to with hold funding from school districts that require face masks.
To counter moves like that, the Department of Education will make additional funding available to help local school districts backfill salaries and other areas where it has been with held.
Biden also addressed booster shots in his remarks, leaving the details of timing to the FDA and CDC but noting preparations are underway to get another round of shots in arms.
He also ramped up testing by using the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of rapid tests, including at home test, and purchase $2 billion worth of rapid tests e and over the counter at home COVID tests for a total of 280 million tests.
‘The president’s plan, as you can see, it’s comprehensive, it’s aggressive, and will ensure that we make more progress in our fight against the virus to save even more lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and protecting our economy from lockdowns,’ the official said.
As part of the sweeping mandates, Biden will require all of the roughly 2.1 million federal workers to be vaccinated as part of a series of new mandates.
There will be limited exceptions but any federal employee who refuses the shot can be fired, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
Federal employees and contractors will have 75 days to get vaccinated.
The executive order will not include an option of being regularly tested to opt out of the vaccine requirement. The orders will apply to workers in the executive branch but not the congressional or judicial.
‘There will be limited exceptions for legally recognized reasons disability or religious objections,’ Psaki said. Anyone who ‘fails to comply, they will go through the standard HR process, which includes counseling and face disciplinary action,’ she added.
She confirmed that action could include termination of employment.
‘Hopefully it won’t come to that,’ she said.
She said the administration wanted the federal government to serve as an example for other businesses and organizations when it comes to vaccines.
‘Obviously the federal workforce is one of the largest in the country and we would like to be a model to what we think other businesses, organizations should do,’ she noted. ‘The expectation is that if you want to work with federal government or be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated unless you are eligible for one of the exemptions.’
Republican Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia, who has federal workers in his district, said he objected to the forced vaccines.
‘Although I have personally been vaccinated and regularly encourage those I represent to get vaccinated as well, I fundamentally disagree with forcibly injecting America’s public servants,’ he told DailyMail.com in a statement.
‘Our government was founded to secure the individual liberties of all. We should instead continue educating the public that the COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. Resorting to forced vaccinations, and returning to unnecessary restrictions, only serves to eliminate critically important vaccination incentives and undermine public confidence in the vaccines’ efficacy,’ he added.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union of federal workers, said they would bargain over the order.
‘Workers deserve a voice in their working conditions,’ the group said in a statement. ‘Neither of these positions has changed. We expect to bargain over this change prior to implementation, and we urge everyone who is able to get vaccinated as soon as they can do so.’