But in laying out a six-step campaign, centered on sweeping new federal vaccine requirements, Biden left out one number: Exactly how many unvaccinated Americans his plan would cover.
That math would help assess the reach and effectiveness of the president’s new initiative. But it may matter less on the political stage than his channeling the frustration of vaccinated Americans who blame their unvaccinated fellows for extending the pandemic, and the social and economic disruptions it has inflicted on the country.
“What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” he asked from the State Dining Room of the White House, addressing the unvaccinated directly. “We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us, so please do the right thing.”
Biden left no doubt — repeatedly — he’s had it with Republican governors blocking mitigation measures and blamed them for the soaring cases, rising hospitalizations and swelling death toll from the delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We have the tools to combat covid-19, and a distinct minority of Americans — supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner,” he said.
“These pandemic politics, as I refer to it, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.”
And the president had an unmistakable message for unruly airline passengers, caught in countless viral videos refusing to wear a mask and sometimes getting into altercations with flight attendants.
“The Transportation Safety Administration, the TSA, will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask. If you break the rules, be prepared to pay. And, by the way, show some respect,” he thundered. “The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong, it's ugly.”
But what was a lot less clear at the end of his 26-minute speech was just how many Americans who have declined to get the vaccine despite being eligible would be driven to do so by his new plan.
(If you were told there would be no math, you were lied to. There’s always math.)
A tally by The Washington Post puts the number of Americans who have had at least one shot at 208.3 million, the number of fully vaccinated at 177.4 million, out of an eligible population of about 280 million.
How large is the population of Americans who, for a range of reasons, haven’t gotten vaccinated despite being eligible? Biden put it at 80 million.
How large is the population of Americans — of one-shot, two-shot, no-shot vaccine status — that falls into the categories of people affected by his six steps?
Biden put it at 100 million.
My colleagues Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Seung Min Kim, and Lisa Rein reported the new policies were “designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.” Biden said that totaled 80 million employees.
Also covered, they reported, would be health-care facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid, as well as all federal employees and federal contractors.
But there was immediate confusion over whether U.S. postal workers — some 644,000 strong — were included in the new campaign.
My colleague Jacob Bogage initially reported they would not be, citing an anonymous White House official. Jacob later reported they would not be covered in Biden’s executive order covering federal employees, but would be covered under Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.
And it wasn’t immediately clear how many eligible-but-unvaccinated Americans fell outside the covered categories — those who don’t work, for example, or those who work in businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Or how many of the 100 million technically covered by Biden’s mandates have already been vaccinated.
The political impact of Biden’s announcement isn’t totally clear. Republican governors threatened to fight the new mandates in court. Some GOP officeholders denounced them as tyrannical overreach inviting a “revolt,” an eerie echo of the Jan. 6 insurrection to overturn the election.
But public opinion polls give Biden a slight edge.
Majorities of Americans favor requiring people to be vaccinated in order to go to work, eat in restaurants, attend large public events, stay at a hotel or travel by airplane, according to recent Gallup polling.
Recent polling by The Washington Post/ABC News found a touch more than half of Americans support businesses requiring employees who come into work to be vaccinated, and slightly less than half among workers who are not self-employed.
But the poll number most on the White House’s mind yesterday may have been 48 percent. That’s the percentage of Americans who told Gallup early last month that Biden had a “clear plan” to battle the virus.
Quote of the day
“The safest thing you can do for your child 12 and over is get them vaccinated,” Biden said to parents this morning during a visit to a D.C. school. “That’s it. Simple, plain, straightforward. Get them vaccinated.”
What's happening now
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the Texas abortion law is “very, very, very wrong.” “We thought that that particular case should not be decided just on an emergency basis,” Breyer said in an NPR interview criticizing the unsigned, 5-to-4 opinion. “But it’s a procedural matter and so we’ll see what happens in that area when we get a substantive matter in front of us.”
BioNTech co-founder Özlem Türeci told German outlet Der Spiegel that the company is already working on a coronavirus vaccine for 5-to-11-year-olds.
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- Michael Fanone, the D.C. police officer who was beaten up while fighting insurrectionists at the Capitol on Jan. 6, returned to work this week. “The 20-year veteran, one of the most outspoken and recognizable officers among hundreds who defended the Capitol, was assigned to the Technical and Analytical Services Bureau, which compiles and analyzes statistics used to develop crime-fighting strategies,” Peter Hermann reports.
- Police have recommended reinstalling a fence around the Capitol ahead of a rally scheduled for Sept. 18 in support of the people arrested in the Jan. 6 riot, Meagan Flynn and Ellie Silverman report.
- Workers who removed the Robert E. Lee statue from Richmond's Monument Avenue expected to find a time capsule underneath. They had no luck. According to historical records, the capsule was supposed to be there, but, after 12 hours of work, a team of experts could not spot it, Gregory S. Schneider reports.
… and beyond
- After the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago, “many media outlets painted a positive picture of the ‘good war,’” writes the American Prospect's Emran Feroz. “They portrayed U.S. actions as ‘just’ and ‘legitimate’ while, mostly, they showed the world a very tiny part of Afghan reality, mostly consisting of urban elites who benefited from the U.S. occupation. Few reporters and investigative journalists focused on the dark side of the war on terror in Afghanistan.”
- Twenty years later, the 9/11 museum is still struggling to address the legacy of that day, writes the New Yorker's Emily Witt.
- Twelve teenagers born after 9/11 told the New York Times's Damien Cave and Yousur Al-Hlou what they learned about the event and its aftermath – and what was left out. “Students have come away with very different perspectives on terrorism, Islam, war and American power. If there is a consensus, it can be found in what students told us their education has been missing: depth.”
The Biden agenda
Democrats are eyeing taxing stock buybacks and partnerships to pay for their agenda.
- “The plans, likely to be included in the Senate’s far-reaching budget bill to offset some of its $3.5 trillion in social policy spending, show how far Democrats are willing to go in using tax policy to reshape business behavior,” the Times’s Jonathan Weisman and Peter Eavis report.
- “Democrats say the tax changes would bring in about $270 billion over 10 years, while pushing companies to invest more in their workers and their businesses.”
- “Senators Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the Finance Committee chairman, are proposing to tax the amount companies spend on such buybacks at 2 percent — enough, they say, to bring in revenue while making companies price in the financial risk and distortions that large-scale buybacks can pose to the economy.”
Congress’s $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance couldn’t stop a crisis.
- “The promise of that help has long since given way to confusion and desperation as national eviction protections lapse with the vast majority of that rental assistance sitting unspent, precipitating the precise crisis Washington had hoped to avoid,” the Times’s Glenn Thrush and Conor Dougherty report.
- “On Friday, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing to examine the shortcomings of the fund, known as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which had only distributed a fraction of its total funding by Aug. 1, according to the Treasury Department.”
Nearly $10 billion in student loan debt has been wiped away since Biden took office, but calls grow for more.
- “More than 500,000 borrowers had their loans erased this year, largely through aid programs that all but stopped functioning during the Trump administration,” the Times’s Stacy Cowley reports.
- “While Mr. Biden has so far fended off calls for the kind of blanket debt cancellation that is a top priority of many progressive lawmakers, a parade of relatively modest eligibility and relief enhancements adds up to a significant expansion of support for beleaguered borrowers.”
- “And more may be coming: The Education Department said it was planning regulatory changes to programs aimed at helping public servants and those on income-driven repayment plans.”
Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for a second time amid rising tensions.
- “The call Thursday evening in Washington yielded no specific announcements, including about whether the two leaders would meet in person for a much-anticipated summit this fall,” Anne Gearan reports.
- “It was meant to underscore Biden’s view that the United States and China are now the defining global competitors but can cooperate where each finds it useful.”
Eighteen Trump administration appointees on advisory boards of military service academies have either resigned from their positions or were terminated.
- The moves came after a request from the Biden administration earlier this week, a White House official said, Felicia Sonmez reports.
- “The appointees had been serving on the advisory boards of the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point, with six on each board, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.” Among them were former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
The latest on Afghanistan
The U.S. has flagged 44 Afghan evacuees as potential national security risks over the last two weeks as the government screened tens of thousands for resettlement.
- “Of the more than 60,000 evacuees who have arrived on U.S. soil since Aug. 17, the lists show 13 Afghans remain in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody awaiting additional screening and review procedures, including interviews with FBI and counterterrorism teams,” Nick Miroff reports.
- “Another 15 evacuees who were considered security concerns have been turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sent back to transit sites in Europe or the Middle East, or in some cases approved for release after additional review. There are 16 Afghans on the DHS lists who have not been cleared to travel and remain overseas at the transit sites U.S. officials call ‘lily pads.’”
Americans are refusing to leave Afghanistan without their families as evacuation flights resume.
- “In the days and weeks before the U.S. military’s hectic departure from Afghanistan, two former interpreters for the American military already resettled in the United States — one a naturalized U.S. citizen, the other a holder of a green card — journeyed back into the war zone to rescue stranded female relatives,” Karoun Demirjian reports. “But nearly two weeks after the U.S.-led airlift ended, both men remain in harm’s way along with their relatives who have the paperwork that should make them eligible for evacuation, they said.”
- “Senior administration officials have estimated there are about 100 American citizens left in Afghanistan who want to leave ... [But] independent organizations working to rescue those left behind say the government’s numbers are a drastic undercount, and that the Taliban is calling more shots than the Biden administration will admit.”
Hot on the left
A federal judge in Florida blocked the enforcement of an anti-riot law backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote that DeSantis’s ‘new definition of ‘riot' is vague and overbroad and criminalizes ‘vast swaths of core First Amendment speech,’” Lori Rozsa reports. “DeSantis (R) made passage of the measure his top priority in the 2021 legislative session. He and the Republican-controlled legislature sought the law in response to the massive civil rights protests that took place nationwide in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.”
Hot on the right
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is asking the Supreme Court to review and overturn the House’s proxy voting rules, which were adopted last year to allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely as a pandemic precaution, Amy B Wang reports. McCarthy criticized the rules as a “power grab” and “a raw abuse of power” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),
Black communities displaced by highway construction, visualized
South Carolina is proposing to sweep aside dozens of homes to widen a freeway interchange choked with traffic.Under the state’s preferred proposal for the interchange upgrade, 94 percent of people and structures that would be displaced live in environmental justice communities mostly composed of Black and Brown residents.
Today in Washington
Biden will fly to New York at 8:15 p.m. He will travel to all three 9/11 sites for the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
Vice President Harris is in Hampton, Va., where at 12:05 p.m. she will hold a discussion with STEM students at Hampton University to discuss the value of historically Black colleges and universities in training STEM professionals.
Stephen Colbert reviewed Biden's plans to defeat the delta variant: