WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has unveiled a new “action plan” plan to confront the COVID-19 surge that’s being driven by the spread of the delta variant. It mandates vaccines for federal workers and contractors and certain health care workers, requires employees at companies with 100 or more workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly, lays the groundwork for a booster shot campaign and recommends that large venues require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. The plan also makes recommendations on keeping schools open.
Key parts of the plan:
— All federal workers and contractors must get vaccinated, with limited exceptions.
— Private employers with 100 or more workers will have to require them to be vaccinated or tested weekly. Employers must provide paid time off for vaccination.
— About 17 million health care workers in hospitals, clinics and other facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments must get vaccinated.
— Some 300,000 employees of Head Start early childhood education and other federal education programs must get vaccinated.
SCHOOLS AND EVENTS
— Governors are urged to require vaccination for school district employees.
— The federal government will continue to follow through with money for widespread testing in schools.
— Stadiums, concert halls and other venues for large events are urged to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID test.
— Federal agencies will lay the groundwork for a smooth booster shot campaign, starting the week of Sep. 20 — if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes or approves the boosters.
MASKS AND TESTING
— Mask requirements will continue for interstate travel and in federal buildings. The Transportation Security Administration will double fines on airline, train and other travelers who refuse to mask up.
— The number of pharmacies offering free testing will be expanded to 10,000.
— Walmart, Amazon and Kroger will offer at-home COVID tests at cost, about a 35% savings for consumers.
— The Pentagon will double military medical teams helping local hospitals overwhelmed with virus patients.
— Federal agencies will boost shipments of a COVID-19 treatment known as monoclonal antibodies by 50%. Medical teams will be dispatched to help administer the treatments.
— Top loan amounts for small businesses affected by the pandemic will be increased to $2 million from $500,000 currently.
The mandate for businesses over 100 employees will include the majority of hospitality employers in Southern Nevada.
"This came out of the blue for us today," Emerald Island Casino owner Tim Brooks said. "We didn't know it was coming so it's just another curve or fastball heading our way"
The casino on Water street has about 170 employees, which would put them under the mandate. Between Emerald Island and Rainbow Club Casino, Brooks said about 80 to 90 percent of employees are vaccinated. However he still worries he would lose some workers with the mandate.
"What if we have staff that doesn't want to comply? It will make us probably reach out to an already taxed labor market," Brooks said.
Wynn and MGM are the two major resorts that already require the same rule: get the shot or mandatory weekly testing.
The Culinary Union that represents 60,000 hospitality workers told FOX5 they support stricter COVID-19 vaccine measures.
“it’s the only way we see a full recovery possible,” spokesperson Bethany Khan said. “The Culinary Union will remain vigilant to ensure workers are protected at work and urge hospitality employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine as they are safe, proven, and effective."
Brooks said he hopes there will be more clarity and guidance in the coming weeks.