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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 worst 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!