Biden admin takes new actions on masks, vaccination

US President Joe Biden announced that his administration is taking new actions on masks, vaccination and booster shots amid a Covid-19 resurgence driven by the highly contagious Delta variant

Biden admin takes new actions on masks, vaccination


US President Joe Biden announced that his administration is taking new actions on masks, vaccination and booster shots amid a Covid-19 resurgence driven by the highly contagious Delta variant across the country.

Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Biden said he is directing the Education Department to use its legal authority against some governors who are trying to block local school officials from requiring students to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus, reports Xinhua news agency.

"You know, we're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children," Biden said.

Some Republican governors, such as Florida's Ron DeSantis, Doug Ducey of Arizona, and Greg Abbott of Texas, have issued orders barring local school districts from requiring masks in the classroom.

"They're setting a dangerous tone," Biden said.

"This isn't about politics. It's about keeping our children safe. It's about taking on the virus together, united."

He said Covid-19 emergency funding in the 'American Rescue Plan' can be used to pay educators who have their paycheck cut by local and state governments if their schools implement mask mandates.

More than 121,000 new child cases were logged in the week ending August 12 in the US, "a continuing substantial increase", said a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Till date, more than 4.41 million children had tested positive in the country since the onset of the pandemic, representing 14.4 per cent of all cases, said the report.

Children under the age of 12 have not been authorised to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country.

In his speech on Wednesday, the President also said that he is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to draw up new regulations making employee vaccination a condition for nursing homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

His administration has already required that all health care and nursing home workers with the Department of Veterans Affairs be vaccinated and that federal employees get vaccinated or undergo routine testing.

Additionally, Biden spoke about the administration's new recommendation for everyone to get booster shots, beginning the week of September 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

"It's the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arrive," he said of the boosters.

He downplayed the criticism that Americans would be getting additional protection against Covid-19 while much of the world still waits for the first vaccination shots.

"There's some world leaders who say America shouldn't get a third shot until other countries got their first shot -- I disagree," Biden said.

"We can take care of America and help the world at the same time."

Fully vaccinated Americans who received a two-shot mRNA vaccine, like those made by Moderna and Pfizer, earlier this year can start getting booster doses on September 20, U.S. health officials announced earlier on Wednesday.

Each person should get their booster shot eight months after their second shot.

Americans who got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely also need booster shots, but more data on the topic is expected in the coming weeks, said the officials.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the vaccines' effectiveness dropped from 75 per cent in March to 53 per cent by August.

Hospitals across the US are "back in crisis mode" due to a fourth surge of the pandemic driven by the Delta variant, according to an article published by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Double-digit growth in hospitalizations was recorded in 46 of the 50 US states in the week ending on Tuesday, and eight states, including California and New York, added more than 400 new inpatients, the article said.

The US logged 911,529 new cases in the week ending on Sunday, and had not seen such a high weekly increase since January 31 with more than 1 million new infections, according to the newspaper.

As of Wednesday, 60 per cent of the US population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines, with 51 per cent fully vaccinated, CDC data showed.

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