NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, September 10th, 2021

COVID-19 Update: President Biden unveils new plan to get more Americans vaccinated

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties here and across the coun­try are work­ing to mitigate.

United States

On Thurs­day, Sep­tem­ber 9th, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden took sig­nif­i­cant steps toward address­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic after a deflat­ing sum­mer that many had hoped would be a return to almost nor­mal, instead inter­wo­ven with fear and dead­ly con­se­quences (most­ly for the unvac­ci­nat­ed), of the virus’ delta variant.

First, Biden announced that all fed­er­al employ­ees will be required to become vac­ci­nat­ed per an imple­men­ta­tion strat­e­gy to be cre­at­ed by each fed­er­al agency, with excep­tions only as required by law. Each fed­er­al agency will be giv­en spe­cif­ic guid­ance by or before Sep­tem­ber 16th by the Safer Fed­er­al Work­force Task Force to ensure as rapid and effec­tive a process as possible.

Sec­ond, all con­trac­tors and sub­con­trac­tors work­ing on projects for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will be required to have all employ­ees vac­ci­nat­ed in order to con­tin­ue such work, with spe­cif­ic guid­ance for such firms in place by the Safe Fed­er­al Work­force Task Force in place by Sep­tem­ber 24th.

Any new con­tracts with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will imple­ment such guid­ance and all such com­bined effort is to be ful­ly imple­ment­ed by Octo­ber 15th. This includes all employ­ees at health facil­i­ties that receive fed­er­al Medicare or Med­ic­aid, plus any employ­ee of Head Start or oth­er relat­ed Fed­er­al edu­ca­tion programs.

Third, the Occu­pa­tion­al Safe­ty and Health Admin­is­tra­tion (OSHA) will be cre­at­ing an Emer­gency Tem­po­rary Stan­dard (ETS) that requires all employ­ers with one hun­dred or more employ­ees to ensure their work­force is ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed or require any work­ers who remain unvac­ci­nat­ed to pro­duce a neg­a­tive test result on at least a week­ly basis before com­ing to work.

All such employ­ees that need to be vac­ci­nat­ed will be required to be pro­vid­ed paid time off to accom­plish the task.

The net result is that around one hun­dred mil­lion employ­ees, almost two thirds of the work force in the Unit­ed States, will like­ly be required to be vac­ci­nat­ed by Octo­ber 15th.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wear­ing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” said Pres­i­dent Biden, speak­ing to the unvaccinated.

“We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increas­ing the share of the work­force that is vac­ci­nat­ed in busi­ness­es all across America.”

And that’s not all.

Gov­er­nors will be urged by the Fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to require vac­ci­na­tion for school dis­trict employ­ees, but the Fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to pro­vide fund­ing for COVID test­ing for the time being.

Sta­di­ums, con­cert halls and oth­er venues for large events will also be urged by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to require proof of vac­ci­na­tion or neg­a­tive COVID test. (This mat­ters because if nei­ther item is sig­nif­i­cant­ly met in the near future, the next log­i­cal step will be avail­able — to fed­er­al­ly man­date such actions.)

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion also announced that it would offer finan­cial help to school dis­tricts that face penal­ties for cre­at­ing mask man­dates in states that have barred them, in an effort to pro­tect them from finan­cial loss­es that could come from penal­ties or fund­ing cuts. (Last month, the U.S. Edu­ca­tion Depart­ment announced that it was launch­ing civ­il rights inves­ti­ga­tions of five states that had barred schools from cre­at­ing mask man­dates, say­ing they may be in vio­la­tion of laws that pro­tect spe­­cial-edu­­ca­­tion students.)

Start­ing Sep­tem­ber 20th, if the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion autho­rizes or approves boost­er vac­ci­na­tions for COVID-19, a cam­paign to deliv­er such boost­ers to the gen­er­al pub­lic will begin.

Mask require­ments will con­tin­ue for inter­state trav­el and with­in fed­er­al build­ings. The Trans­porta­tion Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion will dou­ble fines on air­line, train and oth­er trav­el­ers who refuse to mask up.

The num­ber of phar­ma­cies offer­ing free test­ing will be expand­ed to 10,000. Wal­mart, Ama­zon and Kroger will offer at-home COVID tests at cost, about a 35% sav­ings for consumers.

Over 1,400 fed­er­al­ly qual­i­fied health cen­ters and hun­dreds of food banks will offer 25 mil­lion free tests — Med­ic­aid will be required to cov­er the cost.

The Pen­ta­gon will dou­ble mil­i­tary med­ical teams help­ing local hos­pi­tals over­whelmed with virus patients.

Fed­er­al agen­cies will boost ship­ments of a COVID-19 treat­ment known as mon­o­clon­al anti­bod­ies by 50%.

Med­ical teams will be dis­patched to help admin­is­ter the treatments.

Top loan amounts for small busi­ness­es affect­ed by the pan­dem­ic will be increased to $2 mil­lion from the cur­rent $500,000.

The response from the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty and unions has been large­ly pos­i­tive, if also some­what cau­tious. The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, on the oth­er hand, announced that it would be suing the Biden admin­is­tra­tion for plac­ing an undue bur­den on small busi­ness­es, con­ve­nient­ly ignor­ing the fact that the con­tin­ued spread of the coro­n­avirus is the real burden.

Wash­ing­ton

Yes­ter­day (Thurs­day, Sep­tem­ber 9th), at a press con­fer­ence, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee expand­ed a statewide mask require­ment to include out­door events of more than five hun­dred peo­ple, regard­less of whether or not such par­tic­i­pants have been vac­ci­nat­ed, which becomes effec­tive on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 13th.

He also request­ed that the peo­ple of the state of Ida­ho adopt mea­sures sim­i­lar to that adopt­ed by the state of Wash­ing­ton, as their actions can affect those imme­di­ate­ly across the bor­der in Wash­ing­ton State, and that the sit­u­a­tion is increas­ing­ly about work­ing togeth­er as part of a larg­er community.

Inslee also offered some of his strongest com­ments to date about those who remain unvac­ci­nat­ed, declar­ing it a pub­lic respon­si­bil­i­ty to be vac­ci­nat­ed and that those who have not yet done so are behav­ing irresponsibly.

“This is about patri­o­tism right now,” said the Governor.

Oregon

On Tues­day, Sep­tem­ber 7th, Gov­er­nor Kate Brown held a press con­fer­ence to dis­cuss COVID-19’s spread with­in the state and chil­dren return­ing to school.

“Because Ore­go­ni­ans are mask­ing up and con­tin­u­ing to get vac­ci­nat­ed, we have been able to cut the pro­ject­ed length of this surge.”

“How­ev­er, there are still chal­leng­ing times ahead. And we must remain vig­i­lant. Every action you take impacts how this plays out. Every time you mask up you’re help­ing our doc­tors and nurs­es do their jobs. Every time you mask up, you’re help­ing our kids return to school more safe­ly. And every time you mask up you’re help­ing keep our busi­ness­es and com­mu­ni­ties open.”

“It is with mixed emo­tions that we are wel­com­ing our kids back to school this year. I know many par­ents are excit­ed for kids to return to the class­room full time, and at the same time anx­ious about the Delta vari­ant. We all play a part in reduc­ing com­mu­ni­ty spread of this virus. Togeth­er we can stop the Delta vari­ant from spread­ing and keep our kids safe and learn­ing in the classroom.”

Idaho

Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle respond­ed imme­di­ate­ly to Pres­i­dent Biden’s announce­ment on Sep­tem­ber 9th, say­ing “Today’s actions from Pres­i­dent Biden amount to gov­ern­ment over­reach.” He con­tin­ued, “Gov­ern­ment should stay out of deci­sions involv­ing employ­ers and their employ­ees as much as possible.”

This was said less than two days after the Pan­han­dle and North Cen­tral Health Dis­tricts in north­ern Ida­ho declared “cri­sis stan­dards of care” allow­ing health care rationing for the area’s hos­pi­tals because there are more coro­n­avirus patients than the insti­tu­tions can han­dle. It is expect­ed that the sit­u­a­tion will get worse, with the same prob­lems spread­ing through­out the state in a mat­ter of days.

British Colum­bia

The provin­cial Min­istry of Health declared that as of Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 8th,  77.8% of new cas­es record­ed between August 31st and Sep­tem­ber 6th were among peo­ple not ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed. Between August 24th and Sep­tem­ber 6th, they account­ed for 85.9% of hospitalizations.

Also as of Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 8th, 85.2% of eli­gi­ble peo­ple twelve and old­er in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vac­cine and 77.7% have received a sec­ond dose.

On this same day, Dr. Shane Bar­clay, who has a prac­tice with­in the Inte­ri­or of the province, Sun Peaks, sent a let­ter to his patients, which since has been made pub­lic, stat­ing that no exemp­tion let­ters will be writ­ten for them unless they meet the cri­te­ria set out by health authorities.

“I am not pre­pared to com­mit fraud, so some­one can avoid a vac­cine,” wrote Bar­clay, who treats patients at the Sun Peaks Com­mu­ni­ty Health Centre.

The hard, cold numbers (plus vaccinations)

Wash­ing­ton has had 596,618 cas­es and 6,935 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the forty-sev­enth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

The state has the forty-fifth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

9,725,550 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 10,752,185
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 9,648,024 (89.73%)

Ore­gon has had 294,392 cas­es and 3,394 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the forty-eighth worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

The state has the forty-sev­enth worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

6,508,079 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 6,346,975
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 5,042,792 (79.45%)

Ida­ho has had 231,056 cas­es and 2,447 attrib­ut­able deaths.

The state has the twen­­ty-third worst infec­tion rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

The state has the forty-first worst death rate among the fifty states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and Puer­to Rico per mil­lion population.

1,653,676 tests have been recorded.

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the state: 2,059,860
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 1,485,093 (72.1%)

British Colum­bia has had 172,338 cas­es and 1,847 attrib­ut­able deaths.

3,652,264 tests have been recorded.

British Colum­bia has the sixth worst infec­tion rate and the sixth worth death rate among the thir­teen Cana­di­an provinces and ter­ri­to­ries per hun­dred thou­sand pop­u­la­tion. (If it were an Amer­i­can state, it would be fifty-third and fifty-third, respec­tive­ly, out of fifty-three.)

  • Dos­es of vac­cine dis­trib­uted to the province: 7,853,200
  • Dos­es admin­is­tered: 7,570,924 (96.41%)

That does it for this install­ment of COVID-19 Update. Stay safe and well!

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