President Joe Biden announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements Thursday for as many as 100 million Americans in an effort to increase COVID vaccination rates and curb the surging delta variant.
The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
Following the announcement on Thursday, the Maryland Nurses Association told WUSA9 that it supported the president's decision and said the mandate could help ease the surges of patients being seen in hospitals.
"The rate of severe illness, the demands for overtime, the long waits in the emergency room that we have now. Those things will be mitigated," said Dr. Nayna Philipsen. "It will impact the community’s health and everything that impacts the health of the community impacts the nursing profession.”
Dr. Philipsen said some patients have been forced to wait hours in line for care due to the high number of COVID cases being handled at hospitals across Maryland, including one woman who Philipsen said had to wait seven hours to get both of her broken wrists checked at a Baltimore health facility this week.
Both Maryland and Virginia have seen big spikes in the number of daily COVID cases reported in the states as the summer has gone along.
In late July, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that the delta variant accounted for 83% of all U.S. COVID-19 cases.
Moving forward, Dr. Philipsen said an increase in the number of people vaccinated would be essential to stopping the spread of the deadly virus.
"When you suddenly have a surge of hundreds of very sick patients, this puts a big demand on the system," she said. "We could have more freedom of movement, children would be safer in schools, and the hospitals wouldn’t be flooded.”