Remarks on the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements in Elk Grove Village, Illinois
THE PRESIDENT: Jerry, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for the passport into town. I tell you, every time I come to the Greater Chicago Area, there's somebody I want to steal and bring back to Washington, Gov. I've done it a couple times, you know. (Laughs.) At any rate --
Look, Jerry, every company needs people like you -- every single one -- someone who knows what my dad taught me. And a lot of people who know me well, including the Governor's sister, who I worked closely with for eight years -- my Dad used to have an expression. He used to say, "Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity. And, Joey, a job is a hell of a lot more than about a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about your place in the community. It about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, 'Honey, everything is going to be okay.'"
That's the God's truth. He'd say that every -- ever since he lost -- things went south in Scranton, Pennsylvania, when I was a kid and coal was shut down. My dad was not a coalminer. I had a great-grandfather who was a coal miner engineer. But, you know, he was a salesperson. Everything -- we moved down to Wilmington, Delaware -- a little town called Claymont, Delaware. A little steel town where there's no steel anymore, but right on the border of Pennsylvania. And it was always about the dignity of work.
And what you've been doing here about this pandemic is about protecting the dignity -- the dignity of your fellow Americans. You know, you stayed in an operations mode of lining up protective equipment for the rest of the country, all around the country. And when the vaccine came out, you all stepped up and got the shots. And as a company, you're getting more shots in arms.
And I want to thank Otto for hosting us here at Clayco -- one of the Midwest's biggest construction companies, $3 billion a year in revenue. Thousands of employees nationwide and here in Elk Grove -- 100 percent union. Not labor. Union. Union. (Applause.)
One of the reasons I said I ran was to rebuild this country and rebuild the backbone of the country, and I meant it sincerely. And the backbone is to build from the bottom up and the middle out.
I'm a capitalist. I think people should be able to go out and make a lot of money. That's not -- that's not the problem. But everybody should have an even shot.
And who built the middle class? Unions built the middle class. Without the -- not a joke -- without the unions, we would not have a middle class in America. So, everybody owes you all.
You know, you're constructing buildings for some of America's biggest companies, but you're also doing something bigger than that: You're helping us beat back COVID-19. So are the great leaders who are here today.
JB, you -- Governor, you've done more than about anybody I can think of in any state. I mean that sincerely. You've stepped up. You've always done what you said you were going to do. And you've been relentless in getting people vaccinated. In the Midwest, you're leading. You're leading. And it's real; it's not -- it's not hyperbole.
And Mayor Lightfoot -- who I said, "Please go back to work. I'm going to get in trouble." She had to leave. But Mayor Lightfoot, the same thing.
And, Elk Grove Mayor Johnson, you've -- you've done a hell of a job as well.
You know, we have 11 members of Congress here. Raja, thank you for hosting this in your district, for permission to come into the district. And I also want to thank colleagues in the House of Representatives: Mike Quigley; Robin Kelly; Bobby Rush; Danny Davis; Jan Schakowsky, an old friend; Bill Foster; Brad Schneider; Sean Casten; Lauren Underwood; and Marie Newman.
And I know -- look, for them, you don't quite under- -- you all understand it in a different context, but this a busman's holiday for them, to have to come hear another politician speak. (Laughter.) You know what I mean? (Laughs.) Not a joke, folks. I appreciate it. I genuinely appreciate it. I appreciate it.
And I know they wanted to be here, but there's others who are in Washington and can't be here. Dick Durbin and Tammy, who I've both spoken to, they're in Washington and hopefully -- hopefully will be voting soon.
And also, we've got state leadership here. Lieutenant Governor Juliana is here -- Stratton. And the Ohio-Pennsyl- --the Ohio-Pennsylvania -- I'm from Pennsylvania. The Illinois President, Don Harmon; State Senator Laura Murphy; State Rep. Martin Moylan.
And we've got great labor leaders here, too. Tim -- where's Tim? There you go, Tim. Thank you. Thank you, pal. AFL-CIO State President. And Jeff Isaacson, United Brotherhood of Carpenters. And Don Finn, IBEW. And Robert Riter -- Reiter -- R-E-I-T-E-R -- Reiter -- of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
And, folks, that's how we beat COVID-19: by working together.
We have an expression in that little town of Claymont I was from: "You all brung me to the dance." Labor, you're the -- you're the reason I'm standing here. Not a joke. Not a joke. I got elected when I was 29 years old to the United States Senate, 17 days before I was eligible to be sworn in. I had to wait around to be sworn in -- not a joke as well. And I won by 3,300 votes. And labor -- labor, including the police unions as well as the firefighters, stood up and endorsed me.
And because -- I kid with the governor. I said, "I grew up in a town called Claymont, Delaware. From third grade on, I went to a little Catholic school called Holy Rosary. And across the street from Holy Rosary was a -- was the fire station. And the guys I grew up with, you became either a firefighter, a cop, or a priest. I wasn't qualified for any of them, so I had to be President." (Laughter.)
But, look, it's been a month since I laid out a six-part plan to accelerate the path out of this pandemic: One, vaccinate the unvaccinated. Two, continue to keep the vaccinated protected. Keep children safe and schools open, which the Gov is doing. Increase testing and masking. Protect the economic recovery. And improve the care of the people with COVID-19.
We've made real progress across the board. More than 185 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. More than 75 percent of eligible Americans have gotten at least one shot.
We've made great progress on equity as well, and closing gaps in racial -- the gaps in race, as well as ethnic vaccination rates. Recent data shows that Latino Americans, Black Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans have now gotten vaccinated about the comparable rate as white Americans. That's not happened before. And our work on equity isn't done, but it's an important piece of progress.
We're also starting to see less than 19 -- less COVID-19 cases in a vast majority of communities around the country. Cases are down, this past month, by 40 percent. Hospitalizations are down by 25 percent. We're headed in the right direction if we don't -- if we keep our eye on the ball here. We still have a long way to go.
The fact is, this has been a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Unvaccinated. The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units. The unvaccinated patients are -- are leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or in need of a cancer operation and so much more because they can't into the ICU. They can't get into the operating rooms.
The unvaccinated also put our economy at risk because people are reluctant to go out. And think about this: Even in places where there is no restriction on going to restaurants and gyms and movie theaters, people are not going in anywhere near the numbers because they're worried they're going to get sick.
I've tried everything in my power to get people vaccinated. First thing I did when I was sworn into office back on January 20th is I bought enough vaccine -- right off the bat -- to vaccinate every single American. There were only 4 million Americans who had been vaccinated up to that point, even though the virus had been around.
Second, we made everyone eligible to get a vaccination and made it easy and convenient for them to find a place to get vaccinated -- over 80,000 places around the country.
Third, we gave everyone ample time and information to deal with their concerns. We developed hundreds of million -- we'd -- millions of dollars in incentives -- you did here in the city and the state of -- of Illinois -- and cities and community organizations to encourage vaccinations. Governor Pritzer -- Pritzker, you've done one hell of a job, in terms of encouraging people before we even get to the mandate.
But even after all those efforts, we still had more than a quarter of people in the United States who were eligible for vaccinations but didn't get the shot.
And we know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated. It's as simple as that.
And to -- to spread to our children, to spread throughout society and at our hospitals the risk of other variants -- it's all dangerous and obvious, but we're still not there.
We have to beat this thing. So, while I didn't race to do it right away, that's why I've had to move toward requirements that everyone get vaccinated or I had the authority to do that. That wasn't my first instinct.
My administration is now requiring federal workers to be vaccinated. We've also required federal contractors to be vaccinated. If you have a contract with the federal government, working for the federal government, you have to be vaccinated.
We're requiring active duty military to be vaccinated. We're making sure healthcare workers are vaccinated, because if you seek care at a healthcare facility, you should have the certainty that the pro- -- the people providing that care are protected from COVID and cannot spread it to you.
The Labor Department is going to shortly issue an emergency rule -- which I asked for several weeks ago, and they're going through the process -- to require all employees [employers] with more than 100 people, whether they work for the federal government or not -- this is within a -- in the purview of the Labor Department -- to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or face testing at least once a week.
In total, this Labor Department vaccination requirement will cover 100 million Americans, about two thirds of all the people who work in America.
And here's the deal: These requirements are already proving that they work.
Starting in July, when I announced the first vaccination requirement for the federal government, about 95 million eligible Americans were unvaccinated. This was mentioned a little bit earlier. Today, we've reduced that number to 67 [million] eligible Americans who aren't vaccinated. And today we released a new report outlining effective vaccination requirements that are already proving their worth.
This report shows three key things:
First, vaccination requirements result in more people getting vaccinated. In the past few weeks, as more and more organizations have implemented their own requirements, they have seen their vaccination rates rise dramatically.
For example, the Department of Defense has gone from 67 percent [76 percent] of active-duty forces being vaccinated to 97 percent as of tomorrow. Vaccination just six weeks into this vaccination requirement -- that's how quickly it's moved.
We're also seeing this at colleges and universities across the country. More than 95 percent of students at colleges and universities, like Northwestern and University of Illinois-Chicago, are vaccinated.
And we're going to see it health systems around the country as well. Rush University Medical Center, here in Chicago, has gone from 72 percent to more than 95 percent of its employees fully vaccinated under its requirements.
These requirements work.
And as the Business Roundtable and others told me when I announced the first requirement, that encouraged businesses to feel they could come in and demand the same thing of their employees.
More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved.
Let's be clear: When you see headlines and reports of "mass firings" and "hundreds" of people losing their jobs, look at the bigger story.
I've spoken with Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, who's here today. United went from 59 percent of their employees to 99 percent of their employees in less than two months after implementing the requirement. Ninety-nine percent.
And, by the way, Scott, I want you to know I've instructed the Justice Department to make sure that we deal with the violence on aircraft coming from those people who are taking issues. We're going to deal with that.
In the last days of their implementation, they cut the remaining number of employees left to get vaccinated in half. They went from 67,000 United employees to 66- -- of 67,000, 66,800 complied. People chose to get vaccinated.
That's why we're seeing more companies signing up.
I recently met with the CEOs of Disney, Microsoft -- who you're familiar with here -- Walgreens to hear about their requirements.
The Business Roundtable represents 200 of the largest businesses in the world and has championed vaccination requirements to keep businesses open and workers safe.
America's largest aerospace companies -- Lockheed Martin; Raytheon, who I met with yesterday, the chairman of the board; Northrop Grumman -- they all just announced plans to implement vaccination requirements.
Even -- this I always get a kick out of -- Fox News. (Laughter.) Fox News requires vaccinations for all employees. (Applause.) Give me a break. Fox News.
And over the past week, we've seen American, Southwest, Alaska, and Jet Blue Airlines all announce requirements.
The leaders in Chicago are stepping up. As I've said, the mayor of -- Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker are requiring vaccinations for state and city workers, healthcare workers, and teachers.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce here, Jack Lavin, who's here, has called for all members of his -- of the -- of the Chamber to require vaccinations for their employees going back to work in person.
And I came here to Clayco to thank this company for doing the right thing. Today, Clayco is announcing it's going to require all employees to be fully vaccinated or test once a week. It matters.
I know these decisions aren't easy, but you're setting an example and a powerful example.
The second thing I'd like to say: Today's report shows that vaccination requirements are good for the economy -- not only increasing vaccination rates, but to help send people back to work. Back to work.
You know, when I first started the vaccination program and we got all that vacci- -- vaccine enough for everyone -- we're vaccinating 3 million people a day -- we were getting very close before things began to slow down -- the economy is growing in leaps and bounds: 6 percent -- the fastest-growing major economy in the world.
In fact, increased vaccination coverage results in as many as 5 million American workers going back to work, because they feel safe they can go back to work. There will be more economic demand to drive people back to the workforce.
But don't take it from me. Not from some, you know, liberal think tank this comes from. But here's what Wall Street is saying:
Goldman Sachs, quote: "Vaccinations will have a positive impact on employment." It means less spread of COVID-19, which will help people return to work.
Moody's on Wall Street: "Vaccination means fewer infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. In turn, it means a stronger economy."
One economist called vaccine requirements, and I quote, "the single-most powerful" -- he didn't say "single" -- "the most powerful economic stimulus ever enacted." End of quote.
The third point I'd like to make: The report shows that vaccination requirements have broad public support. Yes, some object, and some object very strenuously. And some are making a political statement out of this issue. But a strong bipartisan majority of Americans support vaccinations. They know it isn't about politics; it's about life and death. That's what it's about. It's about looking out for one another. It's about being patriotic, doing the right thing.
Folks, vaccination requirements work, and there's nothing new about them. They've been around for decades. We've been living with these requirements throughout our lives. Students, healthcare professionals, our troops have been required to receive vaccinations for everything from polio to measles, to mumps, to rubella.
And the reason most people in America don't worry about polio, measles, mumps, rubella is because they've been vaccinated. I don't quite get this, you know, why it's a matter of -- no violation of your right to be able to go to school or get a job, to have -- et cetera. But now it's a great cause (inaudible)?
So, today, I'm calling on more employers to act. My message is: Require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we're going to beat this pandemic finally. 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.
Look, I know that vaccination requirements are a tough medicine -- unpopular with some, politics for others -- but they're lifesaving. They're game changing for our country. We're in a position to leap forward in a way that we haven't for a long, long time economically. Businesses have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic and save lives, and protect and grow our economy.
So, as President, I'm going to continue to do everything I can to get us out of this pandemic. I look forward to more businesses joining that effort.
And for folks who haven't gotten vaccinated, get it done. Do the right thing. It can save your life. It can save the lives of those around you.
You know, if I can digress for just a second: Last night, I was on the television -- on television -- I was on the telephone with a person at an emergency hospital ward in Pennsylvania, because a good friend had called and he had rushed his significant other to the emergency room because this woman was having trouble breathing, had a high fever, and could not really catch her breath. And they got her into the hospital, but the waiting room was so crowded, things were so backed up, they couldn't even get her to be seen initially.
So, because I knew this person, I called. I called the desk, the receiving nurse, and asked what the situation was and has anyone even -- and, by the way, I wasn't complaining because they're getting the living hell kicked out of them, by the way. Doctors and nurses, some of them are just -- they're running dry. I really mean it. They're getting the living hell kicked out of them, and sometimes physically.
And to make a long story short, it took a while because all of the -- not all -- the vast majority of the emergency rooms and the docs were occupied taking care of COVID patients.
I'll bet every one of you can name somebody who got sent to the hospital with something other than COVID and couldn't get it taken care of. How many people do you know -- I know -- who've had to put off elective surgery -- surgery they need done -- but they couldn't get a hospital room? It didn't mean they were going to die, in many cases, but some places in the world, that's happening. You can't even get to the -- do the elective surgery that's necessary, particularly for a lot of cancer patients.
So, look, things are changing, and we can end this. We can end this thing. It's easy, it's accessible, and it's free to get the vaccine.
Test your ZIP code to 438829 -- 438829. Text your ZIP code there or visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination location near you. I promise there's one within 5 minutes of where you -- 15 minutes from where you are. And it's free.
Let me close with this: We have a plan. We have the tools. We're using them and we're making progress. We just have to finish the job. Finish the job. So, for God's sake, for your own sake, for the sake of your families: Get vaccinated. We can do this. We can do this if we do it together. And we can literally change the circumstances, the health, the camaraderie, the employment, and the access to a growing economy if we step up and lead the world.
And one last thing I'd like to mention, which is not directly -- it's not part of what I was going to say today. But I've made a commitment that -- just like World War Two, we were the arsenal of democracy, providing the means by which the Allies could fight and win the war -- we're the arsenal of vaccines.
I've not only purchased enough vaccine to make sure every single American can get a vaccine shot, get the full dose and a booster, but provide -- already we've put out a million eight hundred thousand [one hundred and eighty million] doses of vaccines to other parts of the world. And we're going to end up doing over a billion two hundred million doses between now and the end of the first quarter of next year.
Because, you know, it's not just being decent and honorable about what we can do, but it's in our own naked interest. If we haven't learned before, you can't build a wall high enough to keep out -- you can't -- a virus. You can't do it. You cannot do it.
So, we have an obligation in our own naked self-interest to help other countries. And, by the way, I travel the world. I've met with all the major world leaders, and I'm going to continue to meet with them. And guess what? Other countries are making like they're really doing a great deal. We have provided more vaccines around the world than every other country in the world combined. Combined.
And guess what? Unlike China and Russia and others, we're not asking a single thing. Not a single thing in return. Nothing. Nothing. And it's having a profound impact on how we're viewed.
So, those of you who haven't gotten vaccinated who may be listening to this broadcast, please get vaccinated. Please.
God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you so very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements in Elk Grove Village, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/352874