President Biden on Friday offered a message for Republican governors and others who say they’ll challenge his new COVID-19 vaccine mandates in court — “Have at it.”
“Look, I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” Mr. Biden said at the Brookland Middle School in Northeast Washington.
Mr. Biden chastised his political opponents one day after detailing a six-step plan to combat the delta variant of the virus. Notably, it directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to craft rules that mandate employers with 100 workers or more to require the vaccine or weekly testing of employees.
“We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game,” Mr. Biden said. “And I don’t know of any scientist out there, in this field, that doesn’t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I’ve suggested.”
Mr. Biden defended his mandates after remarks on the school portion of his plan.
He said the combination of vaccination, masking and testing in schools will keep children safe from COVID-19.
“We’re going to be OK. We know what it takes to keep our children safe and our schools open, and we have the tools to do it,” told students and teachers in Brookland.
Mr. Biden highlighted a plank of his plan designed to speed the Food and Drug Administration’s review of vaccines for children up to the age of 11 and pleaded with parents to immunize those aged 12 or older.
“Parents, get your teenagers vaccinated. You’ve got them vaccinated for all kinds of other things. Measles, mumps, rubella — for them to go to school, to be able to play sports,” he said.
He said the Brookland school has a high rate of vaccination for students over 12 and, if they get to 100%, he‘ll invite them to the White House.
Mr. Biden said he is mandating teachers to get vaccinated in Head Start programs and federally-operated schools, while pressing test manufacturers to produce more rapid tests.
First lady Jill Biden, a college professor, gushed over the school environment and noted she just started her own semester at Northern Virginia Community College. She spoke of the anxieties of teaching in the COVID-19 era.
“A cough can start your heart racing. You know a quarantine can send your kids home and upend your life again,” she said.
Mr. Biden is pushing his plan as he tangles with Republican governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida over state-level orders that prevent school districts from imposing mask mandates. They say parents should be able to choose whether to cover their kids’ faces, though some districts bucked them in the face of high transmission of the virus, leading to court battles.
Mr. Biden directed his administration to backfill the salaries of any school officials who are punished by states over their COVID-19 rules.
The president said mask-wearing can be annoying but it remains a vital tool, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all persons in schools wear masks.
“To all the school officials trying to do the right thing by our children, I will always be on your side no matter how much heat you’re getting from the outside,” Mr. Biden said.
The first lady said the nation needs to come together “so we can fight the virus, not each other.”