The remarks came as Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that the US has shared more than 100 million vaccine doses globally, and announced a number of new steps taken since last week to try to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of coronavirus. The new efforts included requiring that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols and encouraging states to provide cash incentives to people to get vaccinated.
Even with those measures, Biden lamented the current state of Covid-19 in the US, saying the Delta variant is “moving like wildfire through the unvaccinated communities and it’s heartbreaking particularly because it’s preventable.” The President squarely blamed policy decisions made in states that have bans on mask mandates, specifically pointing to Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis – who represent the two states which now make up about a third of the nation’s new Covid-19 cases.
Biden cited Texas’ rule, saying “state universities or community colleges could be fined if it allows a teacher to ask her unvaccinated students to wear a mask.”
“What are we doing?” the President asked.
“Florida and Texas account for one third of all new Covid-19 cases in the entire country. Just two states. Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” he continued.
“I say to these governors: please help. If you aren’t going to help, please get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives,” the President added.
Biden later said the results of the two governors’ decisions “are not good for their constituents and it’s clear to me and to most medical experts that the decisions being made like not allowing mask mandates in school(s) and the like are bad health policy.”
The President added he believes more states and cities should institute rules like the one recently announced in New York City, where Covid-19 vaccines will be mandated for employees and patrons of indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues.
In an update about his administration’s latest efforts to combat the pandemic, the President said on Tuesday that several states that have adopted a $100 cash incentive have “seen an uptick of 25% of daily vaccination rates.” He also praised a number of major companies, including Google and Tyson Foods, for implementing vaccine requirements for their workers.
He celebrated the uptick in vaccinations in recent days.
But Biden emphasized that “we’re going to see these cases rise in the weeks ahead – a largely preventable tragedy that will get worse before it gets better.”
During his remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden also announced that the US has shipped more than 110 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 60 countries. He said that’s more vaccine donations than all other countries have donated combined.
“Let me be clear: We have the supply for every single American. That will never change. At the same time, it’s also in our national interest to share some of our vaccines with the world,” he said.
Starting at the end of this month, the Biden administration will begin shipping 500 million Pfizer doses that the US has pledged to purchase and donate to 100 low-income countries.
The President reiterated that there are “no strings attached” to the vaccine donations. And while he didn’t commit to additional vaccine donations, Biden said “we have committed to over half a billion doses and we’re trying to provide for more – and provide for the capacity of countries like India to produce the vaccine themselves.”
“We’re doing this to save lives and to end this pandemic. That’s it. In fact, we’re donating vaccines to countries that we have real issues with,” Biden argued. “And we’ll continue to give tens of millions of doses away across the summer and work to increase American manufacturing and the manufacturing of vaccines around the world as well.”
The Delta variant, which can cause more severe illness than Covid-19, is quickly spreading in areas of the country with low vaccination rates and is threatening to derail much of the progress the nation has made in combating the pandemic. Hospitals are once again filling up with patients as the virus tears through the unvaccinated population.
But vaccination rates are improving amid the skyrocketing cases and hospitalizations. The White House on Monday announced that 70% of US adults had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine – a big milestone they had initially hoped to achieve by July Fourth. A little less than 50% of the US population has been fully vaccinated.
Vaccination rates are increasing in states with the highest cases, according to the White House, with the eight states with the highest current case rates having seen an average increase of 171% in the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks.
The surge in Covid-19 cases spurred the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue new masking guidance for vaccinated Americans and communities across the country are seeing Covid-19 restrictions being put back in place to slow the spread of the virus.
The US has also seen a sharp rise in the number of government and private sector employers pushing vaccinations for those who want to return to the workplace.
Biden announced last week that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols including regular testing, masking and other mitigation measures. These requirements will apply to military and civilian Defense Department personnel, and the department is also considering adding Covid-19 vaccines to the list of required vaccines for military personnel, the Pentagon said.
The White House had previously indicated it would support private companies’ decisions to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations, but Biden took it a step further last week and said he would like to see companies, states and schools move in the direction of requiring them.