'it's about life and death'
President Biden on Thursday said that federal employees in the United States and overseas should get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and those who choose not to must wear masks at work, stay physically distanced from others, and go through weekly or twice weekly testing.
The directive comes as the highly-contagious Delta coronavirus variant spreads across the country, causing the number of cases to spike. "Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, 'If I'd just got the vaccine,'" Biden said during an address at the White House. "This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don't have to die."
Biden said he's glad that GOP leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) are now urging Americans to get vaccinated. "This is not about red states and blue states," he said. "It's literally about life and death. It's about life and death." Biden added that he knows "people talk about freedom, but I learned growing up ... with freedom comes responsibility. Your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else. Unvaccinated people spread the virus."
Before Biden made his remarks, deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters "until we have more people who are vaccinated and are curbing the spread, there needs to be proper protocols to keep Americans safe."
The Treasury Department also said on Thursday that Biden is "calling on state, territorial, and local governments to provide $100 payments for every newly vaccinated American, as an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives." Funding for this initiative would come from the $350 billion fund set up as part of the American Rescue Plan to assist local governments, states, and territories.