President Biden made his frustration with the unvaccinated and those who encourage them clear Thursday. "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he said in a speech to the nation from the White House. The president's tone was decidedly different this time, the Washington Post reports—sharp and scolding, after Biden tried to coax and persuade people to be vaccinated for months. "We have the tools to combat COVID-19," he said, "and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner."
Biden sounded weary of making an evidence-based argument for the vaccines when addressing the 80 million unvaccinated Americans. "What more do you need to see? We have made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot," he said, per the Hill. "So please, do the right thing." Biden has dropped in the polls lately as concern about the disease has risen. He announced a series of steps to defeat COVID-19 in his speech, including a requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated.
Major retailers including Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger will start selling at-home coronavirus test kits by next week at cost, Biden said. He plans to invoke the Defense Production Act, per CNN, and expects the price of the kits to drop about 35%. About $2 billion will go toward buying nearly 300 million rapid tests, Biden said, which will be made available at food banks, community health centers, schools and other places with the aim of providing access to everyone. House Republicans immediately criticized Biden's vaccine mandate for government workers, with GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik calling it an "authoritarian power grab."
Polls have shown popular support for vaccine mandates, however, despite the vocal opposition, per the Hill. "These pandemic politics, as I refer to it, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die," Biden said in his speech. "We cannot let these actions stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal." (Read more President Biden stories.)