President Joe Biden renewed his call for private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying “we are going to beat this pandemic” if more Americans get their shots.
“Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants and much less commerce,” Biden said during a speech in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, where he toured a construction site overseen by Clayco, which is one of the Midwest’s largest construction companies and announced new vaccination requirements for its employees Thursday.
“I know these decisions aren’t easy, but you’re setting an example and a powerful example,” he said of Clayco’s new requirement.
Biden said that the U.S. is in a position to “leap forward” economically and that businesses “have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic.”
“I know that vaccination requirements are tough medicine, unpopular to some, politics for others, but they’re life-saving, they’re game-changing for our country,” he said.
Biden’s remarks came just hours after the White House released a new report outlining the importance of requirements in driving up vaccination rates and helping Americans return to work.
The 26-page report says more than 185 million Americans are now fully vaccinated and that “the unprecedented pace of the president’s vaccination campaign saved over 100,000 lives and prevented 450,000 hospitalizations.”
“These requirements work,” Biden said. “More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved.”
According to the White House, more than 3,500 organizations have already instituted some form of vaccine requirement, including 25% of businesses, 40% of hospitals, and colleges and universities serving 37% of all graduate and undergraduate students. They said thousands more businesses will institute requirements over the weeks ahead as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule for businesses with more than 100 workers is still being finalized.
White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar also announced on Thursday that 78% of adults in the U.S. have now received at least one vaccine dose.
Biden’s visit, which was rescheduled from last week so the president could focus on infrastructure negotiations in Washington, D.C., comes nearly a month after he laid out a six-point plan to combat the pandemic, which included a vaccination requirement for federal government employees, health care workers and all businesses with more than 100 employees, which he said “wasn’t my first instinct.”
“Vaccination requirements work,” Biden said. “And there’s nothing new about them. They’ve been around for decades. We’ve been living with these requirements throughout our lives.”
The president also met with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who implemented a requirement for employees to be vaccinated in August and now boasts a 99% vaccination rate.
Biden’s visit also comes as the president’s overall approval rating is declining, including his handling of COVID-19. In a Quinnipiac poll among U.S. adults released Wednesday, fewer than four in 10 Americans now say they approve of Biden’s overall job performance, four points lower than Quinnipiac reported in a poll three weeks ago. Meanwhile, 50% disapprove and 48% approve of his COVID-19 response.
ABC’s Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report