WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden announced a sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate on Thursday, an effort that the White House says is intended to beef up the U.S.’s vaccination efforts and convince the 80 million or so people who haven’t been jabbed to take the shot. It’s also a move that will have an impact on several Scott County employers.
The president’s mandate would require that any company that employs more than 100 people require all their workers to be vaccinated. It would also require any company that contracts with the federal government to require all their workers to be vaccinated, regardless of size. Also, health care workers would be required to be vaccinated.
That move would impact about 100 million Americans, the Associated Press reported. It would affect such Scott County employers as Scott Appalachian Industries, Takahata, JDS Technologies and Tennier Industries.
Biden also called on school systems to require teachers to be vaccinated, while announcing that staff who work in Head Start programs would be required to be vaccinated.
The president spoke angrily in his address, blaming the latest surge of coronavirus on the unvaccinated.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing then, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said.
The move was immediately and soundly criticized by Republicans and by some labor unions as overreach by the White House.
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs simply called the president “nuts” in a tweet, before later asking if Biden should be referred to as “King Joe I.”
Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said that “Biden and the radical Democrats (have) thumbed their noses at the Constitution.”
The president’s mandate will almost certainly be challenged in court, and is viewed by many conservatives as unconstitutional.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted at Biden, “See you in court.”
Many conservatives took exception with Biden’s statement that the mandate is “not about freedom or personal choice.”
“‘This is not about freedom’ is a phrase that should never come out of a U.S. President’s mouth,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
Lee said that the president’s rhetoric was divisive and would harm efforts to encourage the reluctant to be vaccinated.
“For a fight that requires working together, a lot of cynical and divisive edicts came out of the White House today pitting the vaccinated against the unvaccinated, businesses against employees, and states against the federal government,” the governor said.
Biden’s mandate wasn’t completely surprising. Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals warned last month that a federal mandate would likely eventually be handed down that would force federal contractors to require their employees to be vaccinated.
Tibbals said at the time that Scott County would likely be considered a federal contractor, since the county receives federal funding. However, guidance was not immediately available Thursday on whether Biden’s mandate would actually extend to local governments, should it survive the inevitable court battles that loom.