A week after President Biden announced vaccine mandates for roughly 2/3 of the nation’s private businesses, the White House on Monday was left asking large companies to adopt their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates after a federal appeals court paused the rule.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the Biden administration believes it can still win the court battle, but said firms should create their own mandates in the meantime as 26 state attorneys general sue — and even some Democrats, such as Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, object to the federal mandate.
“We think people should not wait. We say do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. It is important and critical to do and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness,” Jean-Pierre said at the daily White House press briefing.
“This is about keeping people in the workplace safe. And so what we’re seeing is more businesses and school closures and more lost jobs that keep us keep us stuck in a pandemic that we’re trying to end.”
She added: “We’re trying to get past this pandemic and we know a way to do that is to get people vaccinated. So people should not wait. They should continue to go move forward and make sure that they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”
The Labor Department’s on-ice rule would cover about 84 million of 161 million people in the US labor force.
The New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit stalled implementation of that mandate, requiring that companies with 100 or more employees either adopt a vaccine mandate or a policy that allows workers to keep their jobs if they submit to weekly testing and wear masks at work.
Jean-Pierre said that “we feel confident about the legal component of this” and pushed back on a reporter’s question about whether a mandate was needed amid falling coronavirus infection rates.
“We still have 1,300 people a day — approximately 1,300 people a day are dying… And we believe that in order to get this pandemic behind us, we get ready to get more people vaccinated,” she said. “We see vaccination requirements work. And also it’s important to keep people safe in their workplace.”
Jean-Pierre last week said she objected to the framing of public discussion about the policy, arguing it was “misinformation” to call the workplace rules a “vaccine mandate.”
The rule was scheduled to take effect the same day as two other Biden vaccine mandates impacting federal contractors and about 17 million health care workers, with certain medical and religious exemptions. There’s a Dec. 8 compliance deadline for people employed directly by the federal government
According to CDC data, 80.6 percent of US adults have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot — as has 67.4 percent of the total US population. US health officials initially believed that perhaps 70 percent of people being vaccinated would end the pandemic, but the more contagious Delta variant impeded reaching that goal.