President Biden is expected to outline his administration’s plan on Thursday to put pressure on private companies, federal agencies and schools to enact stricter vaccination mandates and testing policies as the Delta variant continues to spread across the United States.
The spread of the strong variant has pushed the country’s daily average caseload above 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing about 1,500 people a day.
Mr. Biden, who was briefed Wednesday afternoon by his team of coronavirus advisers, will deliver a speech at 5 p.m. Eastern that will cover about six areas where his administration can encourage — or currently push — more eligible Americans to get vaccines. according to the White House. Officials offered few details, stressing that the plan was still in the works, but said the underlying message would be that the only way to return to a sense of normalcy was to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, bring the pandemic under control and return people to normal life,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s our goal, so we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”
When asked whether Mr. Biden would add more detail to existing policies or outline measures that would have an immediate and wide-ranging effect on Americans, Ms. Psaki replied, “It depends on whether you are vaccinated or not.”
Government officials are seeing signs that more people in the United States are opening up to injections — about 14 million received their first injections in August, four million more than in July, Ms Psaki said. But about 27 percent of the eligible U.S. population ages 12 and older have not received Covid vaccinations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some of the worst-affected states, the unvaccinated rate is higher: 42 percent in Texas, for example, and 38 percent in Florida.
About 1.3 million fully vaccinated people have received a third shot after federal officials approved them for people with compromised immune systems. Biden has publicly supported the idea of increasing the availability of third injections as boosters to much more of the population, but health experts have advised the White House not to promote that for the time being.
On Wednesday, Ms. Psaki said the White House was working on a plan for boosters, but did not provide a timetable. She told reporters that Mr. Biden chose Thursday to deliver a comprehensive speech about the virus because he understood it was “top of mind for Americans” when they return to schools and offices.
The president will also seek to correct course after a difficult month for his administration, leading the public away from a chaotic and violent end to the war in Afghanistan and returning to his administration’s efforts to contain a pandemic. curbing every facet of American life.
But amid renewed fears about the virus’ damaging effect on the economy and the prevalence of a troublesome variant, even Mr. Biden’s allies say it will take more than a speech to allay concerns that the virus will spread. has grown out of the control of a president again.
“He ran on competence and brought adults back into the room,” said Nick Rathod, a former domestic policy adviser to President Barack Obama. “This is something he has to take control of and show his level of competence. I think that’s why he was hired.”