President Joe Biden announced new initiatives aimed at combatting COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon and criticized politicians who have implemented mask mandate bans.
Biden spoke strongly about a just-issued memorandum to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The memorandum directs Cardona “to use all available tools to ensure that governors and other officials are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children,” according to the White House.
“Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures – that is, children wearing masks in school – into political disputes for their own political gain,” Biden said. “Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They’re setting a dangerous tone.”
Biden condemned threats he said recently came from protesters in places like Tennessee, calling “the intimidation and threats we’re seeing across the country … wrong.”
“They’re unacceptable. I’ve said before, this isn’t about politics. It’s about keeping our children safe. It’s about taking on the virus together, united. I made it clear that I’ll stand with those who are trying to do the right thing,” the president added.
The administration has criticized some governors, like Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who banned mask mandates in schools. The memorandum aims to ensure that “the Department of Education is doing everything it can to prevent anything from standing in the way of local leaders and school leaders taking steps to keep all students safe in full-time, in-person learning, without compromising students’ health or the health of their families or communities,” the White House announced.
Federal health officials announced earlier Wednesday that booster shots for vaccinated Americans will likely be available starting the week of Sept. 20. Biden also addressed this announcement, which follows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving the additional shot for immunocompromised people Aug. 12.
Health and Human Services (HHS) are implementing new regulations for long-term care workers serving Medicare and Medicaid enrollees, the White House said in a fact sheet Wednesday. Biden spoke on these regulations Wednesday and declared that America is still dealing with “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” (RELATED: President Biden Tells Americans To Expect More COVID Restrictions)
“Some states have already taken similar steps to protect nursing home residents, and this action will ensure consistent and equitable standards across the country. These new regulations would apply to over 15,000 nursing home facilities, which employ approximately 1.3 million workers and serve approximately 1.6 million nursing home residents,” according to the White House fact sheet.
The administration has become increasingly concerned about the delta variant, which currently makes up 98.8% of cases in the U.S. There’s particularly been a rise in cases among states with lower vaccination rates, according to the White House.
Finally, the Biden administration announced it is extending the federal reimbursement to states that used National Guard personnel for COVID-19 response efforts as well as for COVID-19 emergency response costs.