Oct. 7 (UPI) — President Joe Biden on Thursday urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on a visit to Chicago.
In a plea for those who have yet to get vaccinated Biden called on them to “get it done” and “do the right thing.”
“It can save your life. It can save lives of those around you,” he said. “We can end this thing. It’s easy. It’s accessible and it’s free to get the vaccine.”
Biden spoke at a manufacturing site in Elk Grove Village, Ill., as he met with public and private sector leaders who have moved ahead with COVID-19 vaccine requirements for workers.
The president last month ordered the Department of Labor to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to require that workers be fully vaccinated or get tested for the virus once a week, stating that the pandemic has placed a particular tax on healthcare workers who are “getting the living hell kicked out of them.”
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, overriding emergency rooms and intensive care units,” he said. “The unvaccinated patients are leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or a need of cancer operation and so much more because they can’t get in the ICU, they can’t get into the operating room.”
Companies including United Airlines, Tyson Foods and many major hospital systems have reported vaccination rates of more than 90% due to the mandates. New York City public schools has a mandate that went into effect last week.
The White House on Thursday released a report detailing the impacts of the vaccine requirements, noting that the number of unvaccinated people in the United States has declined from 95 million to 67 million since late July. The report said the mandate would “result in millions more people getting vaccinated.”
Biden said he was reluctant to implement the mandate but had “tried everything” to get individuals vaccinated ahead of the surge brought on by the Delta variant.
“Even after all these efforts, we still had a quarter of the people in the United States who were eligible for vaccinations but didn’t get the shot. And we know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated,” he said. “So while I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements that everyone get vaccinated where I had the authority to do that. That wasn’t my first instinct.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier that vaccine requirements are a key portion of Biden’s strategy to slash coronavirus cases and variants nationwide.
“That’s why he’s leading and implementing on — implementing vaccination requirements for 100 million workers, two-thirds of all workers in the United States, and that’s why we’re seeing growing momentum for vaccination requirements across the sectors and across the country,” she said.
Biden did offer some optimism in his speech, noting that COVID-19 cases have fallen by 40% in the past month while hospitalizations have dropped 25%.
“We’re headed in the right direction if we keep our eye on the ball here,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Biden also met with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, as he praised the company for implementing the vaccine mandate.
“United went from 59% of their employees vaccinated to 99% of their employees in less than two months after they implemented the requirement,” he said.
The president added that his administration is “going to deal with” unruly passengers on airlines after the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday released a report stating that it has recorded 4,626 incidents this year.
“Scott, I want you to know I instructed the Justice Department to make sure that we deal with the violence on aircraft coming from those people who are taking issues,” said Biden.